When does Lent Start?
Lent begins each year on Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday. This year Lent will begin on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023, and if you follow the 40 days tradition, Lent will end on Holy Saturday, April 8th, 2023.
The Lent season is a 6-week time of somber reflection and remembrance. Lent is traditionally a time of fasting and abstaining from something to repent and focus our hearts and minds on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Lent can help families in the same way Advent helps parents prepare their children for Christmas. The Lent season provides families an opportunity to strengthen spiritual discipline together. Rather than engaging in the distraction of the baskets and egg hunts, Lent can help your family focus on the real meaning of Easter and what Jesus’ sacrifice means for our salvation.
Download your FREE copy of our 40-Day Lent and Easter Devotional - filled with daily Scriptures, reflections, and prayers for the Lent season.
When Does Lent End?
Lent will officially end on the day before Easter, Saturday, April 8th, 2023. The week leading up to Easter Sunday is called Holy Week or Passion Week. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem.
During each day of Holy Week, we remember the events of Jesus' last week of ministry on earth. On Maundy Thursday, we recall the Last Supper, Jesus' washing the disciples' feet, and his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. On Good Friday, we reflect on Jesus' crucifixion and his sacrifice as payment for our sins. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the glorious resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, from the tomb.
Lent, Holy Week, and Easter 2023
- Ash Wednesday: February 22
- Palm Sunday: April 2
- Holy Monday: April 3
- Holy Tuesday: April 4
- Holy Wednesday: April 5
- Maundy Thursday: April 6
- Good Friday: April 7
- Holy Saturday: April 8
- Easter Sunday: April 9
What is the Meaning of Lent?
Between Ash Wednesday and Easter, many Christians observe a 40-day period known as Lent. This name comes from the “Old English lencten springtime, spring” and “from West Germanic langitinaz long-days or lengthening of the day.” Popularly regarded as a period of fasting, there are many ways to make the Lenten period meaningful without missing meals.
Lent is meant to be a time of repentance. That’s not a feeling of shame, but an awareness that sin separates us from God and of what it cost Him to be reunited with us. (see: What is the Meaning and Purpose of Lent? by Candace Lucey)
As reported by Stewardship, a UK Christian charity, in their 40acts challenge:
“Lent’ is a shortened version of the Old English word ‘lencten’, a word which simply means spring (in relation to the season). It is thought to have Germanic roots and seems likely to have been used to describe the season when the days began to lengthen, signifying new life and renewal. Over time, the word Lent came to be linked specifically to the Christian tradition of fasting before Easter, which always coincided with the spring.”
History of Lent
Early Christians knew the significance of Easter called for appropriate preparations. The first remark of a 40-day period of fasting in preparation for Easter is seen in the Canons of Nicaea (AD 325). It is considered that the custom may have arisen from the early church tradition of baptismal aspirants enduring a 40-day period of fasting in preparation for their baptism at Easter. Eventually, the Lent season developed into a time of spiritual commitment for the whole church. Through the primary centuries, the Lenten fast was very stringent but loosened over time.
What is Ash Wednesday About?
Often called the Day of Ashes, Ash Wednesday starts Lent by focusing the Christian’s heart on repentance and prayer, usually through personal and communal confession. This happens during a special Ash Wednesday service.
During Mass (for Catholics) or worship service (for Protestants), the priest or pastor will usually share a sermon that is penitential and reflective in nature. The mood is solemn - many services will have long periods of silence and worshipers will often leave the service in silence.
Usually, there is a responsive passage of Scripture, usually centered around confession, read aloud about the leader and congregation. Attendees will experience communal confession, as well as moments where they are prompted to silently confess sins and pray.
After all of this, the congregation will be invited to receive the ashes on their foreheads. Usually, as the priest or pastor will dip his finger into the ashes, spread them in a cross pattern on the forehead, and say, “From dust you came and from dust you will return.” (excerpt written by Kelly Givens - What is Ash Wednesday and Why Do Christians Celebrate It?
Why Do Christians Observe Lent?
Lent is the Christian season of spiritual discipline leading up to Easter. Throughout Lent, most Christians adopt a period of fasting, repentance, prudence, and spiritual development. The meaning of the Lenten season is to use this time for reflection on Jesus Christ, to recognize his affliction and his atonement, his life, death, burial, and resurrection.
Christians who keep Lent commonly make a dedication to fast, or to give up something, like smoking, watching TV, social media, or a food or drink, such as sweets, chocolate, or coffee. Some Christians also take on a Lenten observance, like reading the Bible and spending more time in prayer to draw nearer to God.
Strict partakers of Lent do not eat meat on Fridays, usually opting for fish. The purpose of this spiritual obedience is to increase the faith of the observer and generate a closer relationship with God.
LEARN MORE: Rules for Lent Fasting
Do All Christians Observe Lent?
While Catholics and Protestants celebrate Lent; observing Lent is more popular among Catholic believers, but the tradition is growing among evangelicals. According to a LifeWay Christian Research study:
- “Three-quarters of Americans (76 percent) say they don’t typically observe Lent, according to a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research."
- "Catholics (61 percent) remain most likely to observe Lent, according to LifeWay’s survey. Protestants (20 percent) and those with evangelical beliefs (28 percent) are less likely."
- "Forty-three percent of those who attend church at least once a month observe Lent. That includes 82 percent of Catholics who regularly attend service as well as 30 percent of Protestants.”
Eastern Orthodox Christians also celebrate Lent but on a slightly different schedule. The BBC states,
“Both the eastern and western churches observe Lent but they count the 40 days differently. The western church excludes Sundays (which is celebrated as the day of Christ's resurrection) whereas the eastern church includes them. The churches also start Lent on different days. Western churches start Lent on the 7th Wednesday before Easter Day (called Ash Wednesday). Eastern churches start Lent on the Monday of the 7th week before Easter and end it on the Friday 9 days before Easter. Eastern churches call this period the 'Great Lent'.”
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