Celebrating Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, the Beginning of Lent


Want more joy in your Christian life? God ordained special days in Scripture for His people to focus on Him and enjoy His goodness. This article provides one way to discover our Lord more fully and bring more contentment into life…to celebrate the beginning of Lent.

By Mark D. Harris

Jesus died on Passover, the perfect sacrifice to wash away the sins of man. He rose from the dead, the first and only man to ever do so, on the third day. Forty days later, on Ascension Day, Jesus ascended into heaven.[1] Fifty days after Passover, which is ten days after Jesus’ ascension, the Jews celebrate the Feast of the First Fruits, also known as Pentecost (Leviticus 23:9-14).

The season of Lent is intended to help God’s people focus on our sins and our need for deliverance, leading up to the miraculous deliverance of Easter. The Lenten season is 40 days long, reflecting the 40 days of Jesus’ temptation (Luke 4:1-13) and corresponding to 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension.   

Fat (Shrove) Tuesday

Better known as Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday is the last day of the pagan Carnival festival which begins after Three Kings Day (Epiphany), January 6th. Fat Tuesday is the culmination of the festival and a day of feasting and revelry before the austere and solemn season of Lent begins. Christians should avoid the dissipation and paganism sometimes seen in Mardi Gras but can still make the day meaningful and pleasant. Some ideas that we have used as a family appear below:

  1. Some Catholics that we know use up and remove fat from their houses 40 days before Passover. Christians can do the same.
  2. Invite family and friends over for a dinner of high fat foods. We enjoy pancakes, butter, bacon, sausage, ham, and whipped cream.[2]
  3. Read two passages about the ashes and the nature of man or ashes and repentance in the Bible – Genesis 18:27, 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1, Job 2:7, 13:12, 30:19, 42:6, Psalm 102:9, Isaiah 58:5, Jeremiah 6:26, 25:34, 31:40, Lamentations 3:16, Ezekiel 27:30, 28:18, Daniel 9:3, Jonah 3:6, Matthew 11:20, Luke 10:13, Hebrews 9:13
  • Sing a song of praise.
  • Pray a prayer of thanks.

Ash Wednesday

This is the first day of Lent. As revealed in yesterday’s readings, ashes signify the burning and subsequently the utter destruction of something. Traditionally, the ashes come from the leaves of palm branches burned after Palm Sunday from the year before. Jesus Christ took the punishment for Christians, and for us ashes signify His utter destruction of our sin and death. Lent does not include Sundays, as every Sunday is a celebration that Jesus rose again!

  1. Catholic Christians often go to their church, cathedral, or other place of worship and have their priest, pastor, or spiritual leader make a cross of ashes on their forehead. They leave the cross in place for the whole day. Some Protestants, such as the Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Reformed Churches, and others do the same.[3]
  2. Begin Lent by fasting (health permitting), taking in only water from sunup to sundown.
  3. Eat only unleavened bread during the day.
  4. Invite family and friends and eat a meatless dinner.
  5. Decide as a group what you will give up for Lent. A common practice is to give up meat every Friday. Another is to fast from sunup to sundown one day per week.
  6. Read two more passages from the list above, but today include Isaiah 61:3.
  7. Sing a song or hymn of praise.
  8. Pray a prayer of thanks.

Lent extends until Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday. Host a Christian Seder supper at church or with other believers on that day. The MD Harris Institute has an article on how to do Seder suppers and on other celebrations at Easter. Join us in celebrating our Lord in this holy season!

[1] Technically, Ascension Day as celebrated is 39 days after Easter Sunday.

[2] For health, high fat is OK once per year…just don’t make a habit of it! 😊

[3] Ash Wednesday, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ash_Wednesday#cite_note-2018RCA-3

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