When does Lent start? 2023 dates, what is it, how long does it last and ideas for what to give up

The Christian observance of Lent lasts for 40 days starting in early March

Lent is a 40 day solemn religious observance in the Christian calendar and commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent in the Judaean desert, according to Gospels in the Bible, during which he endured temptation by Satan.

Many Christians use this time as a reflection period to undergo prayer and penance. However, these 40 days are often observed by non-churchgoers too.

So when is Lent 2023 and what are the rules?

The Christian observance of Lent lasts for 40 days starting in early MarchThe Christian observance of Lent lasts for 40 days starting in early March
The Christian observance of Lent lasts for 40 days starting in early March

When is Lent 2023?

Lent starts on 22 February 2023, on a day known as Ash Wednesday and lasts until 6 April 2023.

The day before Ash Wednesday is known as Shrove Tuesday - a day which is a complete contrast to the religious and sombre six weeks to follow.

Many people around the world use Shrove Tuesday as a way to relieve their vices through mass celebrations and Carnivals.

In the UK, people traditionally eat Pancakes before Lent, to use up rich indulgent food of milk, flour and eggs.

Lent is an annual event falling around February or March and lasts for 40 days, not including Sundays according to the calendar, meaning the season is 46 days long overall.

Traditionally, Lent is a period of spiritual discipline which culminates in the big celebration of Easter.

What is Lent? 

The word Lent is derived from the Old English word Lencten, meaning springtide or spring season to mark the lengthening of days.

Lent is a period of 40 days, starting on Ash Wednesday up until a week before Easter to commemorate when Jesus went into the Judaean desert after being baptised by John the Baptist. During this time, Jesus was faced by temptations from the Devil and underwent a spiritual journey of self-discipline whilst fasting.

Jesus’ journey into the desert is outlined in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

In the early days of Christianity, there are records of the tradition of fasting before Easter.

However, different sects of Christianity observe Lent in different ways.

What are the rules of Lent?

Known as the Lenten sacrifice, the essence is to surrender certain chosen luxuries in imitation of Jesus’ sacrifice during his journey into the desert for 40 days.

Many Christians use this time to prepare for Easter through prayer, repentance, almsgiving, simple living and self-denial.

Some people choose to fast during Lent, while others only fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (the Friday before Easter).

There is no limit to what you can choose to give up but popular options include sugar - including chocolate - coffee, meat, alcohol, smoking, swearing and social media.

Some people choose to use this time to help others instead, in a scheme called the Lenten Positive Acts Challenge.

When Easter arrives, those who have observed Lent are then allowed to re-indulge in what they sacrificed.

What can you give up for Lent?

The overall goal of Lent is not to give something up if it bears no meaning, it is about delving deep within yourself and attempting to eliminate a vice or practise which hinders a relationship with God.

The purpose of Lent is absolution so many Christians use this time to give up something which they over-indulge in.

Some ideas to do or give up in Lent are:

  • Give up sweet treats
  • Give up alcohol
  • Give up smoking
  • Give up excess social media
  • Take more time in reflection and meditation
  • Begin a hobby
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