Lent is a religious observation in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday, taking a period of six weeks. It ends shortly before Easter Sunday, a day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. Ash Wednesday varies from year to year due to the variation of Easter dates. It usually falls between February 3 and March 10. The period of Lent is observed in memory of the holy week that led to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and other events such as the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, celebrated as Sunday of Palms. The culmination of the Lent Period is usually the commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus, observed as Good Friday. The period of Lent traditionally requires forty days, to commemorate the forty days Jesus spent in the desert. This event is mostly observed by the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran and Orthodox churches.
When does Lent end?
There have been many theories about when the period of Lent should end. The period is not always fixed because the start date of Lent usually varies. The end of Lent also varies from denomination to denomination, depending on their definition, beliefs and practices during Lent. Anglican’s Lent usually carries 44 to 46 days. In Roman Catholics, Lent is 40 days and ends on the evening of the Lord’s Supper, just before Holy Thursday begins.
Contrary to the thought of many people, even Holy Week is part of the period of Lent. Holy Week includes Holy Thursday, a celebration of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, on Good Friday which is a commemoration of the day on which Jesus died and was crucified, and the last day of Lent, Holy Saturday that honors the day Jesus’ corpse was laid in the grave. The following day is Easter Sunday, a celebration of his resurrection.
Generally, the Lent calendar is the lunar calendar, a reason why dates continue to vary from year to year. Easter Sunday is usually the first Sunday after the first full moon. After Easter Sunday has been established, other dates for Lent and Ash Wednesday are established.
Practices and customs during Lent
The followers of the denominations that observe Lent, as mentioned above, mark the beginning of Lent by engaging in prayer, having penance, mortifying the flesh, repenting of their sins, offering alms and self-denial. Believers deny themselves some of the luxuries during the period of Lent. In the Roman Catholic Church, decorations such as flowers are not used. The other statues and religious symbols are covered with pieces of purple cloth to signify the gloom of the period. Even the Catholic faithful abstain from consuming meat. Catholics refrain from singing “alelluia” and from using musical instruments during their masses, to indicate the gloomy mood of the period. In honor of the successive stages of Jesus’ arrest until his death, Roman Catholics take part in the way of the cross. The sacred period ends with a Easter vigil at dusk on Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday.