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HELP (please) explaining lent and all of the other days surrounding it

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I am looking for a book or a website or just someone here to explain all of the holidays and history surrounding Christmas and Easter. I am, obviously, not Catholic but I am looking for Catholic and or Orthodox history surrounding these days. From any perspective is totally fine. We are so uninformed that I really don't even know how to ask the question intelligently :lol:


I know mardi gras is coming up and I think I know it started as part of the church celebration of Easter but what are all the days now? How many of them, like Fat Tuesday and such are part of church stuff, how many are just worldly celebrations, and where did it all come from?


We are studying the early middle ages and I just thought the timing was perfect to put in a unit on Easter. What actually prompted it is a book we just started called The Year 1000: What Life was Like at the Turn of the First Millenium by Robert Lacey. We were reading about how to get the timing of Easter right on the calendar.


Thanks for looking past my ignorance and trying to point me in the right direction. :001_smile:



*Probably not a huge tome, but something with pictures geared to middle school or younger if you have book recommendations.

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From the Orthodox perspective, Lent is the 40 days before Holy Week (the week before Pascha). It begins this year on Feb. 27, with Pascha being on April 15. The evening before the first Monday of Lent, we have "Forgiveness Vespers." Vespers is an afternoon/evening prayer service, and at forgiveness vespers, it is a tradition for all the people present to ask forgiveness from all the others present, one by one. This is a necessary, serious way to enter this anticipatory season. During Lent, the traditional practice is to not eat any animal products, wine (alcohol) or (olive) oil during this time, while intentionally giving more (whether in money or other means) and praying more (there are additional prayers during our regular prayer times, as well as more church services to attend during the week). No one is perfect, and we press on in the strength we have. It's a wonderful time of year that points our eyes to Christ and how He trampled down death, for us.


Here are some links for you:

From Lent to Pascha: The Journey of the People of God - overview and explanation of Great Lent.

The Church Year: Great Lent - short summary of Great Lent

The Great Lent: A Week by Week Meaning - detailed look at Great Lent and what each week entails.


Here's a hymn from the Vespers service during Lent:

Let us begin the lenten time with delight ... let us fast from passions as we fast from food, taking pleasure in the good words of the Spirit, that we may be granted to see the holy passion of Christ our God and his holy Pascha, spiritually rejoicing. Thy grace has arisen upon us, O Lord, the illumination of our souls has shown forth; behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the time of repentance.

We have this wonderful pictorial book on Pascha:

Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey


Here's how the Orthodox date Pascha (the date in the East is often different from the date in the west): Dating Pascha in the Orthodox Church


Whew! I hope that's enough information. If I think of anything that would tie into your study of the Middle Ages, I'll let you know.

Edited by milovaný
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Catholic POV here.


Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras. In some parts of the world it is known as Carnival. That is the day to get rid of all the stuff one isn't going to have during Lent. From fat (for cooking) to beer. :D It is coming up in 6 days. Also known as Pancake Tuesday.


Ash Wednesday quickly follows (the next day). It is the official first day of Lent. A week from today. Here is a quick explanation.


Lent itself is a time of penitential preparation.


Holy Week is the Week leading up to Easter. It starts on Monday after Palm Sunday.


Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are some of the last days of Lent.

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