Millions of Christians have started to celebrate Lent – a time of year that many non-believers may associate with fasting or abstinence.
But there is a lot more to the religious observance than giving up something, as it is regarded as a period of spiritual preparation to grow closer to God in the run-up to Easter.
Certain days are excluded from Lent, and many Christian denominations observe the period in different ways.
Here is everything you need to know about Lent – from the meaning behind it to the traditions that many worshippers follow.
What is Lent?
Lent takes place every year in the 40 days leading up to Easter, and is treated as a period of reflection and a time for fasting from food and festivities.
It symbolises the days which lead up to Jesus’ crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, when Christ spent 40 days and nights alone in the Judaean Desert being tempted by Satan.
When does Lent start?
For Western churches Lent begins every year on Ash Wednesday, the day after Shrove Tuesday .
This year it began on March 1.
The date varies from year to year, starting in either late February or early March.
However, for Eastern Orthodox churches it begins on Clean Monday (February 27 this year), two days before Western churches.
When does Lent end?
There’s no easy answer to this.
For Western churches the 40-day period of Lent ends on Holy Saturday (April 15), the day before Easter.
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