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British Life & Culture

Special Events and Celebrations

by Mandy Barrow

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When and What is Lent?
Woodlands Junior School is in the south-east corner of England

In 2014 Lent begins on 5 March

What is Lent?

Lent is a Christian Festival. In the past it was a long, strict religious fast when people gave up all rich food. The day before Lent starts is known as Shrove Tuesday.

Lent is the time when Christians prepare for the greatest of the Christian festivals known as Easter, by thinking of things they have done wrong.

It was a time for spring-cleaning lives, as well as homes.

What happens during Lent today?

The Christian church no longer imposes a strict fast. Lent is a time when some Christians try to overcome their own faults because they believe that it was man's sin which led Jesus to be crucified.

Some Christians try to follow the example of Jesus in the desert by giving up luxuries and practising self-discipline. And they try to put aside more time to prayer and religious acts so that they can really let God into their lives.

Bible Study
Many churches hold special Lent services. In some towns the churches of different denominations join together in groups to discuss and share their Christian faith.

When does Lent begin?

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and lasts for six and a half weeks.

Lent is a moveable feast which means the date changes from year to year. We explain more on our Easter main page.

In 2014 Ash Wednesday is on 5 March

2009 — 25 February
2010 — 17 February
2011 — 9 March
2012 — 22 February
2013 — 13 February
2014 — 5 March
2015 — 18 February

2016 — 10 February
2017 — 01 March
2018 — 14 February
2019 — 06 March
2020 — 26 February
2021 — 17 February
2022 — 02 March

When does Lent end? When is Lent over?

Lent ends at Easter when Christians remember the execution of Jesus and then celebrate his rising from death.

The last week of Lent begins with Palm Sunday, which celebrates the day Jesus entered Jerusalem and the people lay down palms at his feet. The last day of Lent is Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday (Easter Day)copyright of

In the Roman Catholic Church, Lent officially ends at sundown on Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), with the beginning of the mass of the Lord's Supper.

The period of forty fast days and Sundays before Easter are known as Lent.

image: 2010 calendar showing 40 days
Calendar 2010

Why are Sundays not counted in the 40 days?

Sundays are always a day of celebration in the Christian church and so they cannot be included in the 40 fast days of Lent. Sundays commemorate the Resurrection. c

Why does Lent last for 40 days?

Lent is a time when Christians remember the 40 days and nights Jesus spent alone in the desert without food being tempted by the Devil. Jesus used this time to prepare for His work by fasting and praying.

Luke's Gospel says:

'Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.'

So, as in the Bible, Christians spend forty days in preparing themselves to rejoice at the resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter.

Interesting fact

The number 40 is a special number in the Bible. It signifies preparation for something special:

  • The rain lasted for 40 days in the mighty flood - Noah
  • Moses stayed on the Mount Sinai forty days (Ex 24:18)
  • Jonah gave the people of Ninevah forty days to repent (Jon 3:4)
  • Jesus, before starting his ministry, spent forty days in the desert in prayer and fasting (Matt 4:2)

opyright of

Fasting in different Religions

Different religions fast for different reasons. Sometimes people fast because they believe that suffering makes them closer to God. Fasting is believed to concentrate the mind on holy thoughts. There are some religions such as Buddhism and Sikhism, that don't encourage fasting because they don't believe it helps deepen religious strength.

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement when Jews believe they are punished for past sins and can pray for the future. It is a solemn time when Jews feel they have to show they want forgiveness for their sins by practising self-discipline. They do this by fasting and praying.

Ramadan is the month when Muslims fast from before sunrise to sunset. It remembers the time when the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) received the first revelation of the Qur'an, the Muslim holy book, from the Angel Jibril.

Hindus fast at festivals and at other times to show devotion to the Hindu deities (gods). They fast on certain days of the month such as Purnima (full moon) and Ekadasi (the 11th day of the fortnight) and also on certain days of the week depending on their favourite God and its special day.

Click here to visit our Multifaith Calendar

There are many special days in Lent leading up to Easter, the most important of all Christian festivals.

Click here to download this page (pdf)

Shrove TuesdayAsh Wednesday

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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and 
are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.