The ecclesiastical calendar, which is adopted in all the Catholic, and most of the Protestant countries of Europe, is luni-solar, being regulated partly by the solar, and partly by the lunar year, - a circumstance which gives rise to the distinction between the movable and immovable feasts. So early as the 2nd century of our era, great disputes had arisen among the Christians respecting the proper time of celebrating Easter, which governs all the other movable feasts. The Jews celebrated their passover on the 14th day of the first month, that is to say, the lunar month of which the fourteenth day either falls on, or next follows, the day of the vernal equinox. Most Christian sects agreed that Easter should be celebrated on a Sunday. Others followed the example of the Jews, and adhered to the 14th of the moon; but these, as usually happened to the minority, were accounted heretics, and received the appellation of Quartodecimans. In order to terminate dissensions, which produced both scandal and schism in the church, the council of Nicaea, which was held in the year 325, ordained that the celebration of Easter should thenceforth always take place on the Sunday which immediately follows the full moon that happens upon, or next after, the day of the vernal equinox.

Should the 14th of the moon, which is regarded as the day of full moon, happen on a Sunday, the celebration Of Easter was deferred to the Sunday following, in order to avoid concurrence with the Jews and the above-mentioned heretics. The observance of this rule renders it necessary to reconcile three periods which have no common measure, namely, the week, the lunar month, and the solar year; and as this can only be done approximately, and within certain limits, the determination of Easter is an affair of considerable nicety and complication. It is to be regretted that the reverend fathers who formed the council of Nicaea did not abandon the moon altogether, and appoint the first or second Sunday of April for the celebration of the Easter festival. The ecclesiastical calendar would in that case have possessed all the simplicity and uniformity of the civil calendar, which only requires the adjustment of the civil to the solar year; but they were probably not sufficiently versed in astronomy to be aware of the practical difficulties which their regulation had to encounter.