Today is Ash Wednesday. Most LDS students who grew up outside of Utah in high school, might remember the day because it was the one day a year they weren’t alone in waking up early for something spiritual. On this day, friends also woke early to go to stand in a line at their local church (some, for hours) to symbolically and literally give up sin for 40 days. The ashes put on foreheads during this special ceremony symbolized the potential dedication and sacrifices to take place during Lent.
“The word Lent itself is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words lencten, meaning “Spring,” and lenctentid, which literally means not only “Springtide” but also was the word for “March,” the month in which the majority of Lent falls,” the Catholic Education Resource Center says. Lent is the period of 40 days starting Ash Wednesday and ending Good Friday, right before Easter.
Although BYU students might not hear the phrase, ‘so what are you giving up for lent?’ around campus, religions around the world recognize the holidays.
The Catholic church calls this a time to sacrifice something whether it be an addition, passion or distraction. During Lent, the church instructs that anyone over the age of 14 should abstain from meats on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and every Friday during that period.
During the time of sacrifice, Catholics use the time to pray, reflect, and repent. It is similar to the fasting ritual Latter-day Saints participate in every first Sunday of the month. Participants may “choose to spend the next 40 days preparing our hearts to receive with gratitude the gift of Christ on the Cross,” David Carroll, writes. The Lent customs are not only celebrated by the Catholic faith but also Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans and some Baptists.