When does Lent begin and end? It depends on your religion
depends : New Orleanians, many of whom are or were raised Catholic, know that Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras.
What many don’t know, however, is that for practicing Catholics, Lent officially ends on Holy Thursday. The season is marked as closed with the Mass of the Last Supper. That doesn’t mean, however, the season of reflection is over: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday — or the Holy Triduum, which means “three days” — are considered sacred and remain a time for reflection.
In the Catholic church, the faithful often “give up” something for Lent. They fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain from eating meat on Fridays.
Not all Christian denominations put the same emphasis on abstinence and fasting. Differences abound among the faiths. We explored just a few here.
How long is Lent?
In the Catholic Church, the days between Ash Wednesday and the First Sunday of Lent are part of Lent, but are not counted in the 40 days, according to Archdiocese of New Orleans. The 40 days run from the First Sunday of Lent to Holy Thursday.
Many Christians refer to the Lenten season as 40 days because on the six Sundays in Lent, there is no obligation to fast or do penance, but many Christians maintain their penance throughout the season.
In many other Christian faiths, however, the season is observed until Easter Vigil, which begins at nightfall on Saturday and ends before daybreak on Easter Sunday.
In the Eastern rite, Great Lent begins on Clean Monday and includes Sundays, lasting until the feast of Pascha — or of Christ’s resurrection — before the start of Holy Week. Holy Week is not a part of the Great Lent, but marked as a separate season in the eastern church.
What is the purpose of Lent?
Lent is a time of penance and reflection in preparation for Easter, the day Christians believe Christ rose from the dead.
Christ spent 40 days in prayer and abstinence to prepare for his role as the savior [Matthew 4:1-11], and many Christians follow his example in preparation for the celebration of Easter Sunday.
Many Christians use the season of Lent to distinguish between necessities and desires by giving up certain pleasures. Others may spend more time in prayer and meditation to help them grow as Christians. Still, others put an emphasis on doing good works in their communities.
What is required of Christians during Lent?
Customs and traditions vary by faiths and denomination. Many Protestant churches place less emphasis fasting and the season itself, putting more attention on individual holy days leading up to Easter.
In the Catholic Church, those 18 and older, are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This means eating one full meal a day, with smaller meals if required to maintain health. Catholics 14 and older should abstain from eating meat on all Fridays in Lent. Those with health issues are exempt.
In the Eastern rite, the restrictions are more severe. For example, the faithful cannot consume meat or any animal fat.
When is Easter?
Easter is a “movable feast,” which means it lands on a different date each year. The earliest it can occur is March 22; the latest April 25. (For example, Easter falls on April 16 in 2017; April 1 in 2018; April 21 in 2019; and April 12 in 2020.)
The date of Easter was set by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., assuring that it would always fall on the Sunday after the first full moon that rose on or after the vernal (spring) equinox. The equinox can occur March 20 or 21. The Catholic Church set it at March 21 to provide for a stable calculation.
Many Christians believe that Easter season begins on Easter Sunday, continuing through Pentecost Sunday, the day when Christians believe God sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples.
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