Five things you need to know: Lent

Ash Wednesday marks the official start of Lent, an annual Catholic tradition. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Pixabay)

If you see someone with a black mark on their forehead Wednesday, it could be ashes.

Catholics all over the world will be participating in Lent, a Catholic celebration which involves fasting, reflection and prayer to prepare its members for Easter, the day their savior, Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Ash Wednesday, the official start of Lent, consists of going to a Catholic Mass to receive ashes from palm trees blessed with Holy Water in the sign of the cross.

The dates of the Lenten season differ each year. This year, Lent starts on Wednesday, Feb. 26 and ends Sunday, April 9.

WYDaily has compiled some information about the Lenten season celebrated by Catholics. Here’s some talking points and answers to commonly asked questions about Lent.

  1. What is it? – Lent is a 40-day ritual where church members pay penance to Jesus Christ. Catholics believe Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert and replicate his journey and sacrifices in a similar way by fasting for certain days, not eating meat on Fridays throughout Lent and other rituals.
  2. Why can’t they eat meat? – Catholics believe Jesus was crucified on the cross and died for their sins on Good Friday before he was resurrected on Easter Sunday. Out of respect and to honor him, Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays per tradition, since meats were considered a special occasion dish for celebrations.
  3. I keep hearing the phrase “give up something for Lent.” What does that mean? – Another ritual Catholics do during the Lenten season is give up something as a form of penance.  “Usually, these ‘things’ will be food, habits, or other things that they find pleasurable. “It’s common to see people give up their favorite foods, or vices like smoking or gossiping.”
  4. Holy Week- During the last week of Lent before Easter Sunday, Catholics participate in other traditions. On Good Friday, church members perform the Stations of the Cross broken down in 14 events which tells the story of Jesus’ passion. According to Catholic Online, the stations are referred as mini pilgrimage with mediation and prayer.
  5. So how does Easter eggs fit into all of this? Easter eggs are associated with Catholic tradition as well representing Jesus’ burial tomb and resurrection, according to History.com. “Decorating eggs for Easter is a tradition that dates back to at least the 13th century, according to some sources,” the website notes. “One explanation for this custom is that eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lenten season, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting, then eat them on Easter as a celebration.”

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