Lent is a sacred period for Christians. It lasts for 40 days, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday. Exactly how this time is used depends on the practices of each individual, but typically it is a time for things such as reflection, prayer, penance, giving, and fasting. Lent is a time to prepare one’s heart and mind for Good Friday and Easter and to remind Christians of the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ.
The word Lent comes from the Old English word “lencten” meaning springtime and from the German word “langitinaz” meaning lengthening. Lent is observed in the spring when days are starting to get longer.
Lent recognizes the 40 days following Jesus’ baptism when he went into the desert without food or water and was tempted by Satan. By observing Lent, Christians remember Christ’s sacrifice. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ following his death on the cross and Lent helps Christians remember the events leading up to his crucifixion.
Fasting is a very common practice during Lent. Fasting is seen as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice. It can also be used as a time to connect more with God. But not everyone fasts in the same way. While some Christians may fast for the entire period, today most use this as a time to give up a particular vice as a form of sacrifice. Typically these are things like a favorite food or drink. And others may fast only on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday (the Friday before Easter).
Another common practice during this time is to give to others such as by donating goods to charity, giving money to those in need, or giving of one’s time to a special cause.
Christians do not believe that this time of repentance and sacrifice is done to earn favor with God, as Christians believe that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the only thing that has the power to save. Instead Lent is seen as a time to improve one’s relationship with God, accept his mercy, repent and grow as a believer. Spending time fasting and praying during Lent can make the Easter celebration more meaningful.