Lent is a religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar lasting 40 days. The period is a time for reflection and restraint and people usually give up vices during the period in commemoration of the sacrifices made by Christ.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and precedes Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day.
Ash Wednesday is observed by Anglicans, most Latin Rite Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Moravians, Nazarenes, Independent Catholics, as well as many from the Reformed faith.
Many Christians begin Ash Wednesday by marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional and making a sacrifice they will not partake of until the arrivals of Eastertide.
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Ash Wednesday’s name comes from the practice of religious leaders, such as a priest, placing a cross of ashes on a Christian’s head.
Whilst doing so, the religious leader will either say: ”Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or the dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.
The ashes symbolises the dust from which God created people.
When does Lent start?
Lent, otherwise known as Ash Wednesday, falls on different dates annually.
Lent will begin on Wednesday, February 26 this year, the day after Pancake Tuesday.
The dates of Lent change every year in accordance with the moveable feast of Easter.
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Ash Wednesday, as explained above, marks the first day of Lent.
When does Lent end?
Lent ends on Thursday, April 9, also known as Maundy Thursday, after 40 days of fasting.
Maundy Thursday is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter.
Ash Wednesday begins 46 days before Easter Sunday but in western Christianity, Sundays are not counted as fast days which is why there are only 40 in total.
The date of Pancake Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent and Easter fall on different dates every year.
This is because Easter falls on the first Sunday after the Full Moon date, based on mathematical calculations, that falls on or after March 21.
If the Full Moon is on a Sunday, Easter is celebrated on the following Sunday.