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What is Lent? And When Does Lent Start?

What is Lent?

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a time when millions of Christians around the world take time to draw closer to God and reflect in the lead up to Easter. The 40 days of Lent is when we remember the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and praying. It was during these 40 days that Jesus made the choice to work in God’s way, however hard that might be.

When does Lent 2019 start?

In 2019 Lent begins on Wednesday 6 March. The Lent dates for 2019 are 6 March - 18 April.

When does Lent 2019 end?

The last day of Lent 2019 is Thursday 18 April.

When the Lent period ends depends how you count the 40 days as eastern and western churches observe Lent slightly differently. In western churches Sundays are excluded meaning Lent ends on Holy Saturday. Eastern churches include Lent Sundays meaning it ends on Palm Sunday, the Friday before Easter. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week.

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What does Lent mean?

The word “Lent” comes from the old English, “lencten," which means “spring." In Middle English is derived the words, lenten, lente, lent; related to the Dutch, lente, the German, Lenz, also rendered “spring.” In Old German lenzin, lengizin, and lenzo are related words, which probably comes from the same root as "long" and referring to "the lengthening days,” as the earth moves from the winter solstice toward the spring equinox.

Why is Lent 40 days?

40 is a significant number in the Bible:

  • In Genesis, the flood which destroyed the earth was brought about by 40 days and nights of rain.
  • The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the promised land.
  • Moses fasted for 40 days before receiving the ten commandments on Mount Sinai.
  • Jesus spent 40 days praying and fasting in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry.

What to do for Lent?

Some Christians from more orthodox or traditional denominations fast during Lent. They begin with the wearing of ashes on Ash Wednesday and give up meat, fish, eggs and more for the 40 day period. Others choose to give up comforts or luxuries such as chocolate, junk food, social media or television.

For many Christians, Lent is a time where they make space to pray, read the Bible and reflect on God’s love. This Lenten season, Compassion has partnered with singer-songwriter Philippa Hanna to offer a free series of Lent devotionals from her new book Amazing You.

For some of us the prospect of 40 days of giving up something can be daunting. That’s why we’re sharing devotionals for Lent about remaining upbeat and focused to encourage you in your faith walk.

What is Shrove Tuesday?

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent begins, otherwise known as Ash Wednesday.

Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday was a day where Christians could reflect on the sins they needed to repent of before the Lenten season began. The name Shrove comes from the old middle English word 'Shriven' meaning to go to confession to say sorry for the wrong things you've done.

Rwandan pancake

Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day which comes from the old English custom of using up all the fattening ingredients before Lent, so that people were ready to fast. The fattening ingredients that most people had in their houses were eggs and milk, hence why people began combining them with flour to make pancakes.

What is the first day of Lent called? 

Often called the Day of Ashes, Ash Wednesday opens Lent and takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday. It’s chiefly observed by Catholics, although many other Christians mark it too. Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting.

What is Holy Week?

Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter, and is the week during which Christians particularly remember the last week of Jesus's life. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday which commemorates Christ's triumphant arrival in Jerusalem.

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter where Christians remember the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

Good Friday is the day on which Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Then Easter Sunday is the day on which Jesus rose from his tomb.

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