What is Lent?

This article is part of our Easter Series. For Good Friday and Easter weekend DATES for 2016, please visit our Easter page.

In the Christian community, Lent is the season of around six weeks that leads up to Easter. It is a period of various forms of fasting that depends on the customs of the denomination and culture. Unlike Easter, in Australia’s culture Lent is not generally recognised outside the churches.

Observations vary between Protestant, Catholic and Eastern churches but nearly always begin on Ash Wednesday and continue to Maundy Thursday just before Easter.

For most, the fasting is simple and minimal to the extent that you may even find that the person you work beside is not eating chocolate or cake or meat as their partial sacrificial fast. Others go much further and partake of only a meagre subsistence diet.

Lent has been a part of church life since fairly early in Christian history, although not as early as Easter has been observed. It is not governed by any ordinance in the Christian writings that we know as the Bible, but by a religious passion to honour the season leading up to the Easter weekend and the sacrifice of Jesus.

The word ‘Lent’ came into use in medieval times. It was the word in the English vernacular that meant ‘spring’. Before then, Lent was referred to by the Latin word quadragesima with variations between languages. This word relates to the forty days that Jesus fasted after his baptism and the forty days (minus Sundays in some churches) of Lent.

Many churches and Christian groups in the Australian Christian community partake of a modern application of Lent where, for the period of forty days leading up to Easter, they give up one of their luxuries (e.g., coffee, restaurant meals, etc.) and donate the value of those items to people less fortunate, via charities. This is called Lent Event.