Did you know that Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnival, Pancake Day, Pączki Day, and many more are all names for a historically much more solemn day? Shrove Tuesday is celebrated 47 days before Easter and proceeds the Lenten season. Taken from the word “shrive” or “to absolve” this day of self reflection, confession, and repentance allows those who participate to prepare for the coming days of Lent.

Growing up in a christian religion that did not participate in Lent, many of these more spiritual aspects of the season were lost to the far more visible revelry of Mardi Gras and Carnival. We will never appreciate Lent if our understanding stops the day before it begins, so lets dig a little deeper and gather some faith from this beautiful religious season.

What is Lent:

  • Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and leads up to Easter Sunday. *
  • This period of 40 days comes from many scriptural accounts including the 40 days of purifying flood during the time of Noah, the Israelite’s 40 years in the wilderness, and the 40 days Jesus Christ fasted in preparation to His ministry.
  • The name Lent means “to lengthen” and is taken from the Anglo Saxon word for spring when the days grow longer.

Observing Lent means different things to different people. Some participate in fasting either on specific days (ie. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) or from specific foods (ie. meat, eggs, butter). This fasting encourages the believer to focus on the spiritual rather than physical needs. This practice is not unique to Lent and you can read more about how other faith traditions use fasting to approach the divine here.

For some, Lent is a time to detach from worldly distractions.  They may choose to give up something like television, smoking, alcohol, or sweets for the 40 days. To my friend, who belongs to the Church of England, Lent isn’t about giving something up, but about starting something new. Her family makes a list of things they want to improve on during Lent.

Personally, I think Lent sounds amazing! It is a season of discipline, sacrifice, purifying, preparation, prayer, and conversion. To me it is all about creating space for the divine and regardless of your faith tradition and who doesn’t need help with that?

I have decided to celebrate Lent this year by setting a few distractions aside and making some goals and look forward to learning from this faith-filled experience. But first… I’m going to eat a pancake.

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*This article references Lent as practiced by the western christian church (ie. Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, etc) Check back soon for an article on how Great Lent is celebrated by the eastern orthodox church.

5 thoughts on “Learning from Lent

  1. I love this concept of “creating space for the divine”. I had never tied Lent to Spring. As the days grow longer perhaps God is reminding us to also stretch a little closer to Him.

  2. Shrove Tuesday isn’t part of Lent. I don’t know anyone who regards it as a solemn holy day (Ash Wednesday absolutely is!) It’s not an official day in the liturgical calendar either. There are preparations for Lent absolutely, especially when it comes to discerning how your prayers, fasting, and almsgiving will take shape. Shrove Tuesday is more the feast before the fast, and especially when it was difficult to store uneaten food, when people used up all the stuff they wouldn’t eat during Lent. Lenten practices have also changed through time. Also, in regards to fasting, they fast on Good Friday not palm Friday…(maybe you are thinking of Palm Sunday?)

    Shrove Tuesday is part of my religious heritage and practice and this has been my experience. Today we are having pancakes and sausage for dinner as well as singing alleluia hymns (because alleluia will be omitted from the liturgy during Lent). Perhaps it is different in the UK! Lent is the preparation time before Easter and one of my favorite liturgical seasons.

    You might be interested in the blog catholicallyear.com and searching for Fat Tuesday and Lent. She has some amazing resources!

    1. Thanks so much for your comments. Not coming from a faith tradition that celebrates Lent, I have had to rely mainly on research and my Anglican friends. My reference to the solemnity of Shrove Tuesday comes mainly from historical sources and some readings given to me by a local Church of England pastor. I guess it used to be (and probably to some still is) a day of confession and absolution of sin as well as a day to prepare for Lent. I really appreciate your comments as someone with actual background in these traditions. I will definitely check out that website. Thanks!!!

  3. (I should have included that shrovetide and shrove tuesday used to be regarded as solemn days. Liturgical observances have changed through time, especially since the middle ages and reformation!)

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