Lent is something that most of us have heard of. Maybe our friends are giving up chocolate for a few weeks, or maybe we have seen people with ash on their foreheads and we’re not quite sure why. Or maybe you are completely clued up on Lent and know what it’s all about. Whatever your level of understanding, we hope you’ll enjoy reading our guide to Lent.

What is Lent?

Lent is a time of preparation for many Christians, as the Easter celebrations approach. Lent is a very important time in the Christian calendar during which Christians are encouraged to fast and sacrifice, in homage to the sacrifices made by Jesus Christ. So what is the story of Lent, and what do the traditions of this Christian season of preparation represent?

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday

Lent begins 40 days before Easter, a period of approximately 6 weeks. Christians are encouraged to observe Lent by giving up things that they enjoy. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, and many Christian churches hold services on Ash Wednesday to mark the start of the Lenten period.

Christians may choose to have a cross marked on their foreheads with ashes, to symbolise repentance for sins. The cross on the forehead also symbolises the person’s wish to be identified with Christ.

Shrove Tuesday & Pancake Day

The day before Ash Wednesday is known as Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is a day to use up the foods that can not be eaten during Lent and to confess any sins so that these are forgiven before the commencement of Lent.

Eggs were traditionally not eaten during Lent, so a useful way to use these up was by making pancakes, hence why Shrove Tuesday has now also become ‘Pancake Day’ in our modern society.

Why is Lent 40 days and 40 nights?

Lent is a time for Christians to remember when Jesus travelled into the desert to fast and pray before beginning his work for God. Tradition tells us that Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, and so Lent has become a symbol of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death.

Why give up Food for Lent?

The tradition of abstaining from certain foods during Lent comes from the fasting Jesus did in the desert. Christians may give up certain kinds of foods, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products, or a food they enjoy such as chocolate.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday

Lent is also important to many Christians as it is a time to prepare for the most important event in the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday when Jesus was resurrected.

The Lenten period concludes with Holy Week. Holy Week commemorates the last days of Jesus’ life, culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday, and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. As Christians attend their churches on Easter Sunday, they celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead, and through this, they believe that death is not the end. This can also be a time for Christians to reflect on the loved ones they have lost, and to pray that their loved ones are in heaven.