It’s a busy time of year… Lent, Easter and Spring!

Mar 27, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

This time of year has many important days and periods within it. Times for reflection, remembering and rejoicing… We have Lent, Easter and Spring all coming our way but what do they all mean?

Lent is the 40 days before Easter (not including Sundays). It begins on Ash Wednesday and is a period of reflection. prayer, penance, moderation, and spiritual discipline. Lent recalls the events leading up to and including Jesus’ crucifixion. This year Lent starts on 14 February and ends on 30 March.

Easter is a time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross. This year Good Friday is on 29 March and Easter Monday 1 April. Easter for the year 2024 is celebrated/ observed on Sunday, March 31st.

Spring isn’t so clear-cut as we have an astronomical and meteorological spring! Daylight Saving Time this year starts on 31 March.

Let’s look at each in a little more detail…

Lent… why 40 days?

40 is a significant number in Jewish-Christian scripture because:

  • In Genesis, the flood which destroyed the earth was brought about by 40 days and nights of rain.
  • The Hebrews spent 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the land promised to them by God.
  • Moses fasted for 40 days before receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
  • Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry.

Historically the 40 days of Lent were marked by fasting from food and festivities but today few people fast for the whole period; some fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but generally people try to ‘give up’ a particular vice such as a favourite food that isn’t particularly healthy. While this sacrifice is a good test of self-discipline have you considered starting something new instead, like getting out for a walk every day, or doing something meaningful?

Most Christians regard Jesus’ time in the wilderness as the key event for the duration of Lent, but why is it called Lent? Well, ‘Lent’ is an old English word meaning ‘lengthen’ and is observed in Spring, when the days begin to get longer.

The colour purple

Have you ever wondered why purple is the symbolic colour used in churches throughout Lent? Well, purple is used for two reasons: first, because it is associated with mourning and so anticipates the pain and suffering of the crucifixion, and second because purple is associated with sovereignty and celebrates Christ’s resurrection.

What happens during Lent?

Well first of all let’s mention Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. It’s a day of celebration and the last chance to feast before the abstinence of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day; the pancakes are part of an ancient custom with deeply religious roots. Christians used to undergo the ritual of ‘shriving’, when they would confess their sins, receive absolution for them and be released from the guilt and pain that they have caused them ~ hence the name Shrove Tuesday. So Lent is a time of abstinence, of giving things up, and historically Christians would not eat foods such as meat and fish, fats, eggs, and milky foods. Pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday as they were a dish that could use up all the eggs, fats and milk in the house with just the addition of flour.

Ash Wednesday:

the first day of Lent, is a day of penitence to clean the soul before the Lent fast. There are often special Church services at which worshippers are marked on the forehead with a cross of ashes (from burnt palm crosses) as a sign of penitence and mortality. These services set the tone for Lent, with sombre readings and hymns and a focus on saying sorry for and turning away from sin.

Holy Week is the name given to the week running up to Easter Sunday. The first day of Holy Week is Palm Sunday which celebrates the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem; he was riding a donkey and cheering crowds greeted him and threw palm branches onto the road.

On Maundy Thursday we remember when Jesus ate the Passover meal, or Last Supper, with his disciples; breaking bread and drinking wine. Maundy Thursday gets its name from the Latin word mandare meaning to command. We remember Jesus’ command: ”Love one another as I have loved you.”

Good Friday, a sombre day of mourning, commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday or Pascha, is the most important and oldest festival of the Christian faith and a time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus ~ who died for our sins and then rose again.

When is Easter and what are Easter eggs all about?

The dates of Easter vary from year to year, falling on the first Sunday after the full moon, on or after 21 March. According to St Bede the Venerable, the word ‘Easter’ comes from Eostre, or Eostrae, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. 

 After Jesus was crucified his body was taken down from the cross and buried in a cave with an enormous boulder over the entrance and guarded by Roman soldiers. When Mary Magdalene and some of Jesus’ disciples visited the tomb on the third day after his death, they found the boulder had been pushed aside and the cave was empty. Jesus’ followers realised that God had raised Jesus from the dead. An Easter egg represents new life ~ when Jesus was reborn ~ and is used as a symbol to mark the occasion. Today most Easter eggs are made of chocolate but traditionally chicken eggs would have been hard-boiled and decorated by hand ~ did you do this?

When is Spring?

The first day of Spring depends on whether you are referring to the astronomical or meteorological Spring.

Astronomical seasons refer to the position of Earth to the Sun, based on equinoxes and solstices. Since the seasons vary in length, the start of a new season falls on different days each year. This year, astronomical Spring begins on 20 March 2024 and ends on 20 June 2024.

Meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle, measure the meteorological state, and coincide with the calendar to determine a clear transition between the seasons. The meteorological seasons split the year into four periods made up of three months each. Using the meteorological calendar, Spring always starts on 1 March and ends on 31 May.

Springtime is associated with the sowing of crops and growth after the dormancy of winter. Animals also come out of their winter dormancy or hibernation, begin their nesting and reproducing activities, and birds migrate poleward in response to the warmer temperatures. After a long winter, there is nothing better than seeing signs of Spring. The first snowdrops may appear in Winter but still offer signs of renewal and hope. Frogspawn is a sure sign of Spring as frogs and toads hibernate over winter so if you see their spawn they are awake!! The blossom and buzzing bees are another sign of Spring, together with longer, warmer days, bluebells in the woods and lambs frolicking in the fields!

What meaningful thing might you do for Lent? Whether you give something up or start something new I hope you manage your challenge. All the wonders of Spring will be emerging to encourage you along the way.