Lent 2021: Why do people celebrate it? When does it start? When does it end?

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Lent 2021: Why do people celebrate it? When does it start? When does it end?

What is Lent?

Lent is a period of time between Ash Wednesday and Easter where Christians focus on spiritual purification, meditation and penance. It lasts around 40 days, not including Sundays, drawing from the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert before starting his ministry.

Who participates in it?

Lent is practiced by most Christian groups, including Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherans. Historically, it has not generally been practiced by Baptists. More on why Baptists do not participate in Lent.

Do you have to give something up?

Not necessarily. The focus of the season is on spiritual growth and connection with God. Oftentimes Christians choose to take on something during Lent, like reading more of the Bible or completing daily devotions.

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Fasting is a traditional part of Lent, but not everyone does it. Its purpose is to symbolize penance and remorse for one’s sins. This can also be done by giving up a luxury or by completing acts of charity.

In addition to the standard fasting routine, Catholics traditionally give up eating meat on Fridays during Lent, except for fish.

Do non-Christians participate?

Lent has gradually become secularized by many, serving as a chance to give up bad habits. If you skipped making a New Year’s resolution, or already lapses on your plans of self-improvement, now is a great time to give it another try.

When does Lent begin?

Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, which is on Feb. 26 this year.

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The day before Ash Wednesday, known as Shrove Tuesday, is traditionally a day of feasting before the fasting begins. This includes eating fatty foods, which has also led the day to be called Fat Tuesday — which in French translates to “Mardi Gras.”

  • READ MORE: What is Fat Tuesday? Is it the same as Mardi Gras? And when is it?
  • READ MORE: Ash Wednesday 2021: Why do people celebrate it? What is the significance?

When does Lent end?

For most Protestant churches it concludes on the Holy Saturday — the day before Easter. For Roman Catholics, however, it concludes on Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday – the day before Good Friday, which is the Friday before Easter.

What are the major days in Lent?

As a 40-day holy season, it’s not surprising there are a few particularly important days in the mix.

  • Ash Wednesday: Held on Feb. 26 this year, this is marks the start of Lent.
  • Palm Sunday: Held on April 5 this year, Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ welcome into Jerusalem.
  • Maundy Thursday: Held on April 9 this year, Maundy Thursday honors the date of the Last Supper, when Jesus and his disciples shared a final meal together before Jesus was arrested by the Romans.
  • Good Friday: Held on April 10 this year, this commemorates the day that Jesus was crucified and died.
  • Easter Sunday: Held on April 12, this is the day that celebrates Jesus’ resurrection.
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This post is adapted from a March 5, 2014 story and a February 2021 story.

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