And it’s the Full Moon to boot. The moment of fullness is midday Saturday, so you can see a “Full Moon” rising Friday night – precisely due east, a few minutes before sunset – and again Saturday night, a few minutes after sunset. Both times, yes, it will look big.
The Vernal Equinox happens the very next day, Sunday. This correspondence between Earth’s straight-up-and-down equinoctial orientation plus the Moon and Sun being on opposite sides of the sky, plus the Moon’s extraordinary nearness, will produce extremely high tides. In most places it takes a day or two for the water to catch up to the Moon. For example, at the Saugerties Lighthouse starting Monday morning, each day’s first high tide will rise five feet or more beyond mean sea level. That will bury its trails beneath two feet of water.
This would be a great time to visit the Bay of Fundy, especially the Minas Basin of Nova Scotia. Already boasting the highest tidal range of the world, its tides respond mostly to the Moon’s distance rather than its Full/New Moon spring tides. I just looked it up: From this Saturday to next Thursday, March 19 to 24, all its high tides will be at least 50 feet above mean sea level. Yes, the water will rise more than five stories vertically. You have to see it to believe it.
And there’s still more. Although Easter’s changing date is typically tangled in public confusion, it’s decreed by those same immutable lunar phases. The rules start out simple enough: Easter is the Sunday following the first Full Moon that’s on or after the Spring Equinox. (Note: The Spring Equinox now happens exclusively on March 20, but the Church officially and unvaryingly uses March 21.) The earliest possible Easter would thus be produced if a Full Moon landed on the supposed Equinox of March 21, and additionally, if this were a Saturday. Then Easter would be the next day: March 22.
It’s an unlikely state of affairs. Equally improbable is the latest Easter, which paradoxically arises if the Full Moon lands one day sooner: March 20, which, by the rules, forces us to the next Full Moon on April 18. Then, if that happens to be a Sunday, we must wait a week for the ensuing Sunday, bringing Easter to April 25. Still with me?
A quick rule of thumb, then, is that if a Full Moon falls soon after the Vernal Equinox, it’ll be an early Easter. A Full Moon in the week before the Equinox yields a late Easter. Passover is celebrated on the very day of that first post-equinoctial Full Moon. I hope you’re writing this down.
Here’s where 2011 strangely enters the picture: This year the Full Moon is on the 19th, which already means that Easter and Passover must be unusually late. But whoa: The following Full Moon, on April 17, happens to be a Sunday. This, by the rules, pushes Easter to the following Sunday: April 24. It all produces the latest Easter in more than 60 years (maybe much more; I gave up after hand-searching each March calendar since 1950). Passover begins at sunset right after that same April Full Moon, taking it to April 18-25.
Easter and Passover holidays nearly lingering until May? The closest lunar encounter for five-and-a-half years? What a Moon.