Ash Wednesday everyone. So if like me you’re still full from the pancakes yesterday you’re not alone! Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day is when many countries with a Christian population celebrate. Traditionally you would empty your larder of all the goodies before you embarked upon Lent. You can see the almost literal translation in the Shrove Tuesday celebration of Mardi gras – greasy Tuesday or Carnival from Carne vale – goodbye meat.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent. Christians all over the world go to church to be marked with an ashen cross on their foreheads by a priest. The priest will say “Remember Man that thou are dust and unto dust thou shalt return”. This is symbolise that God created Man from ashes. Interestingly the ashes are made by burning the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday marks the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Christians observe the fasting period of Lent in preparation for Easter. It is 40 days long as a reminder that Jesus went into the desert and fasted for 4o days and 40 nights to prepare for his public ministry. In practice many people give up a favourite or luxury food such as chocolate.
Lent lasts six weeks and finishes on Holy Thursday for Roman Catholics or Holy Saturday for Protestants. With believers celebrating the rising of Christ on Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday is now largely a festival of chocolate!
The word ‘lent’ comes from the Old English word lenten meaning spring season. The Oxford English Dictionary states that the shortened form ‘lent’ comes from the anga-tinaz or long day, have you noticed the days ‘lengthening’? This could refer the the lengthening of the days as we move from Winter to Spring.
And whether or not we believe that we came from ashes, for more than 75% of us here in the UK, to ashes we shall return.