It’s fairly common to hear people describing what they’re “giving up for Lent” each year, but many of the details about Lent itself are less-discussed and/or less-known by the general public. If you haven’t grown up with a religious background that observes Lent (or really, even if you have!), there are understandable questions you may be curious about in regards to this annual acknowledgment. Thankfully, we have everything you need to know about this period of preparation for Easter, and are here to answer all of your Lent 2020 questions, including: “When does Lent start in 2020?”
Lent is typically observed by various denominations of Christianity, such as Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and more. The word “Lent” comes from the longer Old English word “lencten,” which means “spring.” Although the period of Lent begins in the winter on “Ash Wednesday” (we’ll also cover what this day signifies), it continues into the spring season, concluding on the weekend of Easter Sunday.
Already, you might be thinking that “Ash Wednesday” and “giving things up” don’t necessarily sound like celebratory events, but while the observance of Lent has solemn components to it, it’s also filled with hope, faith, and striving to focus more on God and less on self. We’ll elaborate on these underlying themes below, but first, we’ll answer some questions about when Lent begins and ends this year, in 2020!
When is Lent 2020?
Lent 2020 is a six-week period leading up to Easter. Lent begins 46 days before the Saturday of Easter weekend (Easter Sunday falls on Sunday, April 12, 2020), but is only observed Monday-Saturday each week because every Sunday is viewed as a celebration. Therefore, Lent is observed for a total of 40 days.
When does Lent start 2020?
Lent 2020 starts on “Ash Wednesday,” which is February 26, 2020.
What is “Ash Wednesday?”
“Ash Wednesday” is a day of reflection and repentance from sin. It’s possible that you may see some people walking around with black marks on their foreheads on this particular day, as some Catholics and other Christians who observe this holiday mark their foreheads with ashes in the shape of a cross, publicly showing remorse for their sins.
When does Lent 2020 end?
Lent traditionally ends during “Holy Week,” on “Holy Saturday.” This means that Lent 2020 will end on Saturday, April 11, 2020 (establishing the 40 days of observation.)
However, since 1969, Catholics now stop observing Lent on “Maundy Thursday” or “Holy Thursday,” two days prior. For those following this practice, Lent will end on Thursday, April 7, 2020.
When is “Holy Week?”
“Holy Week” is the week leading up to Easter. The week begins on “Palm Sunday” (which is Sunday, April 5, 2020), it consists of other significant days such as “Maundy/Holy Thursday” and “Good Friday,” and ends on “Holy Saturday,” which is Saturday, April 11, 2020.
What is “Palm Sunday?”
“Palm Sunday” (also known as “Passion Sunday”) celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. This is an important event that had been anticipated hundreds of years prior, with prophesies like, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey,” (Zechariah 9:9) being written long before Jesus was born.
The significance of “Palm” in the name of this day comes from the palm branches that were placed on the road in anticipation of Jesus’ arrival.
What is “Maundy” or “Holy Thursday?”
“Maundy” or “Holy Thursday” commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, and takes place on Thursday, April 7, 2020.
What is “Good Friday?”
“Good Friday” is the Friday before Easter (Friday, April 10, 2020), and it signifies the day that Jesus was crucified. That, in and of itself, does not sound very “good.” But as Pope Francis shared in his 2019 Lenten message, the period of time leading up to Easter is when Christians are “welcoming Christ’s victory over sin and death into our lives.”
What is “Holy Saturday?”
“Holy Saturday,” taking place on Saturday, April 11, 2020, commemorates the day that Jesus’ body lay in the tomb.
What’s the meaning of Lent?
As the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship states, “Lent invites us to make our hearts ready for remembering Jesus’ passion and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.” Although a solemn time, it is also a hopeful, expectant time of prayer and fasting before acknowledging/celebrating Jesus’ death and then His subsequent defeat of the grave on Easter.
As Pope Francis has shared, this is a period of time where we can strive to abandon idolatry (which is putting anything in our lives above God) as well as the “self-sufficiency of our ego and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy.” The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship adds, “The Lenten season is set aside for self-examination, spiritual renewal, and growth.”
How do you celebrate Lent?
One of the most common ways of celebrating Lent is giving up something significant in your life, which can simultaneously help its observers reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice of dying for their sake. What you give up can be something you enjoy, like soda, candy, alcohol, etc., or something you spend your time doing, like watching TV or scrolling through Instagram, and then, ideally, you’ll replace that time with spiritual disciplines such as praying or reading your Bible.
Specifically, some Catholics fast from (give up) meat during the Fridays of Lent (as well as “Ash Wednesday”), and others refrain from eating meat on Fridays year-round. The National Conference of Bishops has explained in 1966 that because Jesus suffered on a Friday, this would be the day that they would have set apart, and added, “Our deliberate, personal abstinence from meat…will be an outward sign of inward spiritual values that we cherish.”
Other ways to observe Lent can include participating in more-frequent church services (or daily Mass for Catholics) and sharing resources with those less fortunate. Both volunteering, as well as donating to organizations that help the poor, are encouraged in various Christian denominations.
Throughout the season of Lent, the goal is not to focus on your own sacrifice of giving something up, but recognizing that Jesus’ sacrifice for humankind was/is overwhelmingly astounding, giving us salvation, and was/is literally life-changing. Any habit or discipline that makes someone more aware of God’s sovereignty, as well as how much they need God in their day-to-day life is encouraged as a way of celebrating Lent.