Lent is the period of 40 days before Easter in the Christian calendar. Lent begins once you have had your fill of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, kicking off with Ash Wednesday. Express.co.uk explains the meaning, history and traditions associated with Ash Wednesday.
What is Lent?
In the Christian faith, Lent is a six-week period of reflection and preparation for Easter.
Easter is when worshippers observe the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and celebrate his resurrection after his death on the cross.
During the period of Lent, the Christian churches use the period a time for prayer and penance.
Typically many people observe Lent by surrendering a particular vice such as their favourite foods, drinking or smoking for the duration.
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When is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent for Western Christian churches.
The important day in the Christian calendar is a day of penitence to clean the soul before the Lent fast begins.
In 2020, Ash Wednesday will be on Wednesday, February 26.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday essentially begins Lent.
Roman Catholic, Anglican and other sects of Christianity traditionally hold special services during which worshippers are marked with ashes.
The day gets its name from the traditional blessing of the ashes after burning the Palm branches, or crosses made from Palm leaves, from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.
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Why are there ashes?
Ash Wednesday services draw on the ancient Biblical traditions of covering one’s head with ashes, wearing sackcloth and fasting.
In some churches ashes are used to draw a cross on the head of people to mark the beginning of their Lent fast.
The drawing of a cross is often done while repeating the words “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15) or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
The ashes are marked as a sign of penitence and mortality.
At some churches the worshippers leave with the mark still on their forehead so that they carry the sign of the cross out into the world.
However, at other churches the service ends with the ashes being washed off as a sign that the participants have been cleansed of their sins.
Do you fast on Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday marks a day or remorse nestled between the excesses of Shrove Tuesday and the disciplined fasting of Lent.
As Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent it is traditionally a day of fasting, with many Christians abstaining from all but bread and water until sunset.
Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.
People also commemorate the occasion by abstaining from their favourite foods or by giving up bad habits.
What are the rules of fasting?
Typically if you wish to fast according to the Christian tradition, there are a number of rules to follow.
The first is that you are not permitted to eat meat on Ash Wednesday.
According to the Catholic law of abstinence, Catholics aged 14 and older must refrain from meat on Fridays altogether during Lent, as well as Ash Wednesday.
Additionally, worshippers also abstain from fish, eggs and fats until Easter Sunday.
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