EASTER : Christians celebrate Easter as the resurrection of Christ on the third day after His crucifixion. It is the oldest Christian holiday and the most important day of the church year because of the significance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the events upon which Christianity is based (1 Corinthians 15:3-4,14). The four Gospels make it clear that Jesus was crucified in conjunction with the Jewish Passover (Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-15; John 18:28,39; 19:14). The four Gospels also make it clear that Jesus was raised from the dead three days later, on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2,9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1,19). Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Whether we call it “Easter” or “Resurrection Sunday,” what is important is the reason for our celebration, which is that Christ is alive, making it possible for us to have eternal life (Romans 6:4)!
In some Christian traditions, Easter Sunday is preceded by the season of LENT
(Old English for Spring). LENT is a 40-day period (before Easter, excluding Sundays) of fasting and repentance culminating in the celebration of Holy Week. As a Christian, the Lenten season beacons us to deepen our understanding and appreciation for the abundant grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ's saving work on the cross. LENT began by early Christians in an effort to identify with biblical 40 day periods of trial and fasting
Exodus 34:28, Numbers 13:25, Numbers 14:34, 1 Samuel 17:16, 1 Kings 19:8, Luke 4:2, Acts 1:3)
leading up to Easter.
ASH WEDNESDAY begins the Lenten season and is six and a half weeks before Easter every year. Ash Wednesday is the tradition (not a requirement) of putting ashes on the forehead in the form of a cross as a sign of humility and recognition of our own sin (the ashes usually come from the dried and burned palms from Palm Sunday the year before). "From dust you came, and to dust you shall return. Turn from your sin and receive the good news." By reminding ourselves of our need and willfully submitting to Christ's authority, we prepare our heart to celebrate Easter with a renewed sense of joy and amazement!
Many equate LENT with SELF DENIAL and give up something enjoyable (like meat or chocolate or movies) for the 40 days as a way of focusing more intently on the meaning of the season. While there is certainly nothing wrong with preparing for Easter through some form of self-denial or intentional good works, it is important to realize that these will not win us God's favor, earn special blessing, or increase His love for us. God’s love for us could not be any greater than it already is! If you plan to give up something, please make sure to use the margin created to grow in love and appreciation with Christ. Remember the Lenten season is about preparing the heart; so, if you plan to give up something, then make plans to REPLACE it with something that would turn your heart more toward Christ! Maybe take the challenge to read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) or memorize certain scriptures during Lent. (see the YouVersion Bible App for Bible reading plans and FighterVerse for Bible memorization tools!)
FISH : Catholics practice various acts of penitence and spiritual self-discipline during Lent. One of those disciplines is a fast that requires Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. The rule is based on the authority of the Church, not on the authority of Scripture. The stated reason for Catholics not being allowed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent is to remind the faithful that Jesus died on a Friday. Jesus gave up His body (His flesh), and Catholics, in an effort to attain greater communion with Christ, refrain from consuming flesh.
MARDI GRAS : Pre-Lenten celebrations (Carnival, Festival) culminate with Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French or Shrove Tuesday) the day before Ash Wednesday. Since Christians have often chosen or been taught to fast from all sweet food during Lent, including milk, eggs, and meat, the traditional dinner on this night is pancakes to use up their milk and eggs and syrup so there won't be any of the tempting stuff around during Lent. Many have mutated this season as an excuse for indulgence before the fast. It is often looked on as one last “binge” before having to give something up for 40 days. These celebrations foster the unscriptural notion that you can do whatever you want on Fat Tuesday, as long as you show up in church on Ash Wednesday.
Regardless of how much you know (or don't know) about Lent, or how much (or how little) emphasis your church places on the observance, it's not a bad idea to set your sights on Easter and start thinking now about the significance of Jesus' death and resurrection. Read Psalm 51:1-17 and think about your sin. Pray for forgiveness. Consider making a special offering or sacrifice to God to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the new life He gives, and the true forgiveness that He offers!