Monday, March 14, 2011



Lent, in the Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Christ's Resurrection.

According to the Canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by Satan. Thus, Lent is described as being forty days long, though different demoninations calculate the forty days differently. Many Christians do not include the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter as part of Lent. And most Irish Catholics believe they have special papal dispensation to celebrate St. Patrick's Day (17th March)!

It was traditional to avoid meat (meaning the flesh of livestock and poultry) during Lent - hence one possible derivation of the word Carnival (Farewell to meat), celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the commencement of lenten observances. However, medieval scholars believed that certain geese came not from eggs but from Goose Barnacles in the sea. They were consequently classified by Catholics at the time as fish and not meat and so could be eaten during that time! Very handy!

In the late Middle Ages, as sermons began to be given in the vernacular instead of Latin, the English word lent was adopted for the period instead the latin name Quadrgesima. This word initially simply meant spring (as in the German language Lenz and Dutch lente) and derives from the Germanic root for long because in the spring the days visibly lengthen.

I am not religious, but still like to observe Lent. Easter without Lent, like Christmas without Advent, is somehow hollow - all reward and glutting without any of the work or restraint that make the feasting mean something. I'm trying to cut down on the sugar and sticky buns...

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