Ever heard, “I’m giving up sweets for Lent”? Why does Lent make people want to give up something? And how do you calculate the 40 days of Lent?

Elkhorn Hills Lenten Services

The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday, which is February 10.  Then of course Lent, which leads up to Easter on March 27.  There will be many special worship services and Easter-related events during Lent and, of course, Holy Week.

Chuck Knows Church episode

Facts about Lent

Lent is a forty-day period before Easter, where most churches are decorated in purple–the royal color–to prepare for the King.  It begins on Ash Wednesday (February 10, 2016) and ends on March 26, 2016, which is the day before Easter.  We skip Sundays when we count the forty days, because Sundays commemorate the Resurrection.

Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days. All churches that have a continuous history extending before AD 1500 observe Lent. The ancient church that wrote, collected, canonized, and propagated the New Testament also observed Lent, believing it to be a commandment from the apostles.

But the Word “Lent” isn’t in the Bible!

The word “Bible” isn’t in the Bible, either! So what we’re really asking is the origin of the name.

Originally, “Lent” was nothing more than the English name of the season between winter and summer, the season when the snow melts and the flowers bloom. German and Dutch have the same word, but with slightly different spelling. In German, “Lenz” is the poetic word for “spring.” In Dutch, the word “lente” never changed its meaning. It is still the name of the season between winter and summer, and it is still used with that meaning in everyday life.

The church observance took place during the season of lent. In England, “Lent” came to mean the observance rather than the season, leaving the season without a name. Instead of saying “Lent happens during lent,” English-speaking people invented the word “spring.”   Today, instead of calling the seasons winter, lent, and summer, we call them winter, spring, and summer. We use “Lent” instead of “spring” when we refer to the church season.

In many countries, the last day before Lent (called Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, or Fasting) has become a last fling before the solemnity of Lent. For centuries, it was customary to fast by abstaining from meat during Lent, which is why some people call the festival Carnival, which is Latin for farewell to meat.


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