If you are Catholic, or mainline protestant, or if you know somebody who is, chances are you realize that last week began the forty days preceding Easter called Lent. As are many of our traditional religious holidays (Holy Days) the purpose of Lent is to remember the Biblical story of the forty days and forty nights that Jesus of Nazareth fasted prior to his impending death. Western Christians celebrate lent in the forty days preceding Good Friday and Easter which commemorate of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Mainline traditional Christians such as Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Anglicans are the most likely to celebrate lent. Traditionally they will celebrate by some means of self denial, prayer, fasting and personal repentance. In the middle ages Christians abstained from all animal products except fish. But now the tradition is often to give up one thing that you would normally eat. Some of the most dedicated will fast completely during the day, only eating at night, as the Muslims do during Ramadan.
The purpose of Lent is to relive or remember the events of Jesus’ life as recorded in the New Testament. This liturgical reliving through self denial, fasting, and religious celebration is designed to help Christians experience a small part of the suffering Jesus endured, giving them greater depth of understanding of his life and mission.
Remembering the past events that shape our beliefs and traditions is a big part of who we are. Forgetting our origins is a denial of who we are. Lent helps Christians remember their core beliefs in Jesus and his sacrifice.