Lent, the six week period leading up to Easter, is one of the biggest periods in the Christian calendar. It is similar in a way to advent, which builds up to the celebration of Christ’s birth, but is more solemn in nature as it leads up to the remembrance of Christ on the cross and a celebration of his resurrection. Lent is a time for Christians to practise abstinence and in some cases fasting in order to prepare themselves to remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
When is Lent?
Lent follows the liturgical calendar, just like Easter, so the dates change each year. The date that marks the start of Lent is known as Ash Wednesday, the day after Shrove Tuesday. Lent famously lasts for 40 days, representing the time that Jesus spent in the desert being tormented by the devil prior to the commencement of his ministry, but it actually lasts 46 days. The Sundays during this period are treated as mini celebrations of the life and ministry of Jesus in amongst the 40 fasting days. In 2019, Lent will begin on Wednesday 6th March and will end on Thursday 18th April, the day before Good Friday.
How do Christians observe Lent?
Lent is meant to be a time when Christians focus on their relationship with God. Many choose to give something up or offer up more of themselves to others as a way to express gratitude to God for the gift that he gave to them through his son, Jesus Christ. The items that people choose to give up are usually considered luxury items, such as chocolate or coffee, although it has become increasingly popular for people to give up sources of entertainment that they feel interrupt their relationship with God. Many, therefore, choose to give up TV or stay away from their social media accounts to free up more time to be with God. Christians also try and use Lent to delve deeper into their Bible study – many might pray more or follow devotional readings designed to ready their hearts to celebrate the life of Jesus.
What about Sundays?
Mondays through to Saturdays during Lent are the days that Christians should be fasting, whereas Sundays are treated as celebrations. Many Christians choose to use these as feast days or to attend church to celebrate the gift of Jesus’s sacrifice alongside other Christians. The most important Sunday during the Lent period is Palm Sunday, which represents the celebration in Jerusalem heralding the arrival of Jesus into the city. This is the last Sunday before Easter Sunday, the final celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.