Traditionally Lent was a time of fasting from certain foods such as eggs, meat, fish and fats. Nowadays people might give up on eating certain luxury foods (like chocolate or alcohol), give up on social media, or they take up things, maybe for others in acts of generosity.

During Lent, Sundays are important days of celebration symbolising Christ’s resurrection. The fourth and sixth Sundays are particularly important in the UK – the fourth because it is Mothering Sunday (Mother’s Day) and the sixth because it’s Palm Sunday. 

The last day before Lent, Shrove Tuesday, is a day of self-examination where Christians consider what sins they needed to repent of and what changes to their life or spiritual growth they would focus on during the fast. All the luxury foods that wouldn’t be eaten during Lent are consumed. Given that those foods include eggs, milk and fat – ingredients for pancake batter – it is clear why it became traditional to make pancakes! In the UK, the day is known as Shrove Tuesday – the word ‘shrove’ is derived from ‘shrive’ meaning to forgive. In many parts of the world, the day is known as Mardi Gras (‘fat Tuesday’ in French) and is marked with a carnival.
Ash Wednesday begins Lent. The day gets its name from the traditional blessing of the ashes taken after the burning of Palm branches (or crosses made from Palm leaves) from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations. In some churches the ashes are used to draw a cross on the head of people to mark the beginning of their Lent fast. The drawing of a cross is often done while repeating the words ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’ (Mark 1:15) or ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return’ (Genesis 3:19).

The last week of Lent is Holy Week, which commemorates the final days before Jesus’ execution on the cross. It begins with Palm Sunday which marks the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

It was a day of triumph when crowds of followers and supporters waved palm branches and laid them on the ground in front of him. In many churches, Christians are given small palm crosses to remember the day.

Later in Holy Week, as Lent ends, Christians mark significant days in the Christian year:

Holy Wednesday, when one of Jesus’s followers, Judas, agreed to betray him.

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, believed to be the day when Jesus celebrated his final Passover with His disciples. Most notably, that Passover meal was when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples in an extraordinary display of humility. He then commanded them to do the same for each other.

Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, is the Christian day to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus and His death at Calvary. For Christians, Good Friday is a crucial day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world. Ever since Jesus died and was raised, Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation. Jesus died for our sins, was buried and was raised to life on the third day, following what God had promised in the Scriptures.

Lent ends with Easter Sunday, celebrating Jesus rising from the dead.

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you." (Mark 16:5-7)