Lent is a special time for those who practice Catholicism, and in some other denominations as well. Lent is a time of prayer and sacrifice in the days leading to the Christian holiday of Easter Sunday. Although many believe Lent to be 40 days, this time actually lasts for 46 days because Sundays are not included in the observation of Lent. While the sacrifices made during lent are exempt on Sundays, this day of the week plays an important role in other traditions of the Lenten season.
History of Lent
Lent is based on the biblical story of Jesus fasting for 40 days and 40 nights before beginning his ministry. When Lent originally began, followers of Christianity would fast as Jesus did for 40 days and nights. Participants in Lent would do this in preparation for Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Over time, followers began fasting less and less until Lent evolved into most people simply giving up something they enjoy for the 40 days and nights before Easter. Many people today choose to give up sweets, fountain drinks or a bad habit. Lent also includes giving up meat on Fridays.
Sundays During Lent
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, which lasts for 40 days and night, not including Sundays. On Sundays, a participant in Lent is exempt from abstaining from the thing that was given up, though many find it easier to give up something throughout the entirety of Lent. Sunday church services during the Lenten season become more simplistic than during the rest of the year. Crucifixes are veiled, and the word "alleluia" is not used during hymns. Many churches choose to remove banners of self-promotion during this season as well, in order to commemorate a time of renewal and sacrifice. The fourth Sunday of Lent is a day for disciples of Lent to completely relax, and is sometimes known as "Mothering Day." The first Mother's day fell on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and it is now a traditional time for remembering and celebrating mothers.
Palm Sunday is a feast for Christians that falls on the last Sunday of Lent, one week before Easter. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and many churches hand out and bless palm leaves on this day to mark Jesus' return to Jerusalem, when the crowd waved at him with palm leaves. Some churches keep the palms to make ashes for the next year's Ash Wednesday.
Easter Sunday follows the end of Lent, which is on a Thursday, and is the celebration of Jesus Christ's resurrection. The Thursday that ends Lent is Maundy or Holy Thursday and is symbolic of the last supper, a meal Jesus Christ shared with his twelve disciples. Good Friday follows Maundy Thursday and marks the crucifixion of Jesus. According to the Bible, Jesus was resurrected on the Sunday following Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, thus the symbolism of ending Lent on the Thursday before Easter Sunday.