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Lent 2024: when does it start and why do Christians observe it?

Lent 2024: when does it start and why do Christians observe it?

With Pancake Day (Tuesday, February 13) upon us, this means that the Christian festival of Lent is just around the corner.

Christians worldwide will soon start fasting and repenting while abstaining from luxuries

By the time Lent is over, it’ll be time for the Easter holidays.

Here’s all you need to know about the religious observance.

What is Lent?

Lent is a period of 40 days (not counting Sundays) observed by many Christians, particularly in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and some Protestant traditions. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday — the day before Easter Sunday.

Lent is a time of reflection, repentance, and preparation for the celebration of Easter, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. During Lent, Christians may engage in practices such as fasting, prayer, repentance, and self-denial as a way to draw closer to God and to reflect on the significance of Jesus' sacrifice.

The 40-day duration of Lent is symbolic and is derived from the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness, as recounted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The ashes used on Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, are often made from the burned palm branches from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations.

When is Lent 2024?

Lent is held after Shrove Tuesday, better known as Pancake Day, and ends on Ash Wednesday (February 14, which is also Valentine’s Day this year). The two celebrations are connected because traditionally on Pancake Day, Christians eat the food they plan to give up for Lent.

Lent 2024 runs until Thursday, March 28, with evening mass on what is known as Holy Thursday.

The last week of Lent is Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending on Holy Saturday.

As Lent concludes, Easter Sunday begins on March 31 to commemorate Christians' belief in the resurrection of Jesus

What could I give up for Lent 2024?

Deciding what to give up for Lent is a personal choice. It often involves giving up something significant or which has a strong presence in your life.

Here are some common things people choose to give up for Lent:

  • Food or drink: Many people choose to fast from certain types of food or drinks, such as sweets, caffeine, alcohol, or meat.

  • Social media or screen time: Some people opt to limit their use of social media, television, or other forms of screen time during Lent to focus more on spiritual matters.

  • Negative habits: Lent can be a time to break negative habits or behaviors, such as gossiping, procrastinating, or complaining.

  • Luxuries or comforts: Giving up luxuries or comforts, such as shopping for non-essential items, eating out at restaurants, or taking hot showers, can help foster a spirit of simplicity and gratitude.

  • Time: Sacrificing time by volunteering more, spending more time in prayer or meditation, or dedicating time to serve others can be a meaningful Lenten practice.

  • Personal vices: Some people choose to give up personal vices like smoking, excessive drinking, or gambling as a way to focus on spiritual growth and self-improvement.

Ultimately, giving something up for Lent is to create space for spiritual reflection, growth, and connection with God. It's important to choose something that will challenge you personally and help you deepen your faith journey.

However, as Lent starts on Valentine's Day this year, it will be interesting to see if these three popular habits will be avoided in 2024. No boxes of chocolates, glasses of bubbly, or romantic selfies this year, perhaps?