What is Lent? From pancakes to self-reflection, how the Christian season is observed

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is to be followed by millions of Christians across the world, culminating in traditional Easter celebrations next month

The beginning of Lent changes each year in accordance with the Moon, and ends with Easter. Photo: Unsplash
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As the Christian season of Lent begins, millions of worshippers across the world will begin observing traditions that date back to the Bible.

Abstaining from certain pleasures or luxuries, including foods and drinks, Christians begin 46 days of self-reflection, sacrifice and acts of kindness, which end in the traditional Easter celebrations.

When is Lent this year?

Lent in 2022 begins on March 2 and ends on April 14. Observers usually attend special church services on the first day of Lent to prepare for the spiritual time.

What is Lent?

The Christian period of Lent is observed over 40 days, beginning on Ash Wednesday. Photo: Unsplash

Lent is a religious observance in the Christian calendar, which commemorates the 40 days in which Jesus spent fasting in the desert, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Lent is observed by many different religious denominations, including Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and others.

It begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts about six weeks. Traditionally, it is a time for sacrifice, grieving and remembrance, culminating in the celebration at Easter.

Is Lent on the same dates every year?

As with Ramadan, Lent is not held on the same dates each year. The period of acknowledgement of the 40 days the Bible says Christ spent in the wilderness begins exactly 46 days before Easter. The 46 days constitutes 40 days of Lent, plus six days as Sunday is not counted.

Easter always occurs on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon — the first full moon on or after the spring equinox — which affects the date it falls on each year.

What is Shrove Tuesday?

Pancakes are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday before the beginning of Lent because they are made from rich ingredients which would then be given up. Photo: Unsplash

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. The feast day is determined by the dates Easter falls on.

On this day, which is also known as “Pancake Day” and “Fat Tuesday” — Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” — observers indulge in richer or “fatty” foods ahead of 40 days of sacrifice and penitence.

This is why pancakes are traditionally eaten, because the dish requires milk, eggs and flour — richer ingredients which would then be given up for the following weeks.

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, on which many Christians attend special church services. Photo: Unsplash

The first day of Lent always falls on a Wednesday and is called Ash Wednesday. It is a Christian holy day of fasting and prayer.

Ash Wednesday marks the first day on which Christians make a Lenten sacrifice, whereby they give up a pleasure or luxury for the next 40 days. Easter marks the time when observers can once again indulge in what they gave up.

What do people give up for Lent?

Observers usually abstain from pleasures and luxuries during Lent and may eat simpler foods, while enjoying a period of self-reflection. Photo: Unsplash

The idea of making a personal sacrifice during Lent means many people give up something they enjoy, usually a food or activity.

Children might be encouraged to give up chocolate and sweets. Meat is another common food to give up. Observers may take a break from social media or stop smoking.

During this time, observers are also encouraged to engage in good behaviours such as kindness, thoughtfulness and acts of charity.

Updated: March 02, 2022, 8:34 AM
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