When is Lent 2020? Start and finish dates, why it's observed for 40 days and the meaning behind the fast

Lent is an annual religious observance in the Christian calendar (Photo: Shutterstock)
Lent is an annual religious observance in the Christian calendar (Photo: Shutterstock)

Lent is an annual religious observance in the Christian calendar that takes place ahead of Easter - but what is the meaning behind the 40 day fasting period?

This is everything you need to know about Lent 2020, including what it signifies, when it begins and how long it lasts for.

What is Lent?

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    Lent is a period of reflection and preparation in the run up to Easter, with the dates it falls on changing each year.

    Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days by observing their own 40 days of Lent.

    The period is marked by fasting from food and festivities, with many people giving something up during Lent as a sign of sacrifice, and to test their self-discipline.

    When does Lent 2020 begin?

    Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on 26 February.

    What is Ash Wednesday?

    Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and sees priests gather ashes from the previous Palm Sunday, and rub them on their congregants’ foreheads.

    This ash is a symbol of death, and is made from burning special crosses made out of palm wood, which were used in church services from the previous year's Palm Sunday.

    What is Shrove Tuesday?

    Shrove Tuesday, which will take place on 25 February this year, is the day before Ash Wednesday, and is marked by feasting and celebration.

    Shrove Tuesday traditionally precedes the observance of the Lenten fast, and many people mark this day by making and eating pancakes, hence it being known by many as ‘Pancake Day’.

    Traditionally, this day was associated with clearing your cupboards of foods such as sugar, fats and eggs, which was why pancakes were eaten on this day, to use up these foods before the Lent fasting season began.

    How long does Lent last and when will it end in 2020?

    Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter Sunday, but for some the Lenten fast does not include Sundays, so the six Sundays before Easter are omitted from the 40-day fasting period.

    Lent ends approximately six weeks later on Holy Saturday, which is the day before Easter Sunday, but the day Lent finishes can vary for some.

    For those following the 40-day tradition, Lent will end on Holy Saturday, which lands on 11 April this year.

    However, for some Lent finishes on Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, which is on 9 April this year.

    This year Easter Sunday takes place on Sunday 12 April 2020 (Photo: Shutterstock)

    Holy Week 2020

    Lent finishes with Holy Week, which leads up to Easter Sunday.

    Good Friday, which lands on 10 April this year, is a Christian holiday which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus at Calvary.

    Holy Saturday is a day in the Christian liturgical calendar which celebrates the 40-hour-long vigil that the followers of Jesus Christ held after his death and burial on Good Friday, and before his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

    When is Easter Sunday 2020?

    Easter Sunday marks the resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion, and is a celebration of his life.

    This year Easter Sunday takes place on Sunday 12 April 2020.

    Easter Monday takes place the day after Easter Sunday, which is Monday 13 April this year.

    For those in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Easter Monday, also known to some as Bright Monday or Renewal Monday, is the beginning of Bright Week.

    This article was originally published on our sister site, The Scotsman.