ASH Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent or the Lenten season, which ends on Easter Sunday and incorporates the Easter Festival. Lent begins today and ends on April 9.
According to some calendars, Lent ends on Holy Thursday and actually lasts 44 days. Sundays are excluded from the count, which brings it back to 40 days of observance. The 40-day period marks the days during which Jesus Christ fasted and prayed in the desert and rejected the temptations of the devil, as listed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, before beginning his ministry. The end of the 40-day period is marked by Holy Week and Easter, which celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his trial, crucifixion and resurrection.
In TT, Ash Wednesday also marks the end of Carnival festivities, during which participants revel and, in the traditional sense, worship the pleasures of the flesh. Many Christians observe Ash Wednesday by attending church services, where ashes, in the shape of a cross, are placed on their foreheads to symbolise repentance before God.
In many countries, including TT, Lent is a time to abstain from indulgences, typically called a Lenten sacrifice. Many people pick foods or behaviours to abstain from, which can range from chocolate to meat to partying to sex. The abstinence from worldly behaviour has also affected the wider society, with the most well-known being the banning of soca/calypso from the airwaves during Lent many years ago.
Some uniquely traditional events in TT during Lent and Easter include the consumption of hot cross buns, the beating of the Good Friday bobolee, the creation of an Easter bonnet and the Easter bonnet parade.
While Lent is primarily a Christian festival, in a multi-cultural society like TT many non-Christians also join in the fasting activities. Some people restrict their diet or behaviour with the general feeling that they will fit in, as everyone else is doing it. There is an increased consumption of fish and vegetarian options for those who choose not to partake in meat, one of the most common choices during the Easter season.
Each endeavour is specific to the individual. Caroline C Ravello, communications consultant and mental health advocate, said she did not fast during Lent for religious reasons, but rather for spiritual and physical benefits. She said the main foods she would be giving up were bread and chocolate, and she’s considering a liquid fast from 6 am to 6 pm. She said she would use the time for meditation, journalling and focusing more on the teachings of the Bible.
Real estate agent Tracey Sheppard said she would be giving up meat on Wednesday and Fridays, and abstaining from alcohol for the entire period.
Engineer and educator Laura Lewis said she was abstaining from making poor life choices, and was planning on sticking to her diet, as well as the traditional abstaining from meat and alcohol.
Educational research consultant Sarojani Mohammed planned to give up snacking, that is, any food or drinks outside of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Real estate agent Frances Lakatoo would be giving up sugar, and biologist Gabrielle Smith said she would be giving up yeast, soda and snacks.
Linguistic research associate Guyanne Wilson said she planned on giving up buying food outside, and to fast once a week. She said the money she would save by preparing food at home would be donated to a good cause or charity. In addition, she wants to go to mass every day.
Other than Advent and Christmas, Lent is one of the most important periods in the Christian calendar.
Facts about Lent
What is Lent?
Lent is the annual period of Christian observance that precedes Easter. The dates of Lent are defined by the date of Easter, which is a moveable feast, meaning that it falls on a different date each year. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, and its observance lasts for 40 days, excluding Sundays.
When did it begin?
Catholics started the tradition of Lent around the year 325, during the Council of Nicea, but it has spread through other Christian denominations, including Western Orthodox churches, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Anglicans, among others.
It signals the coming of spring
Lent comes from the Middle English word “lente,” which means springtime.
Last day to load up
On the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, or Fat Tuesday, people tend to eat rich foods in large quantities in advance of the fasting, which is a key component of Lent.
Violet the official colour
Violet, or purple, is the official colour of Lent. It represents mourning for the death of Jesus on the cross while also celebrating his resurrection with colours of royalty.