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Advent, the period leading up to Christmas, is also sometimes observed as a fast.But in that case, the period is meant to foster a feeling of anticipation before celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, falls 46 days before Easter.
The day preceding it is sometimes celebrated as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, depending on who you’re talking to.
A woman with a cross on her forehead for Ash Wednesday listens to Republican presidential candidate Sen.
Marco Rubio (R-FL) during a campaign rally at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center February 10, 2016 in Columbia, South Carolina. Many folks are generally aware that it’s a religious observance that happens every spring and somehow involves people getting ashes smeared on their forehead and/or giving up chocolate or booze or Facebook until Easter.
But since roughly the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, when church leaders set rules, precedents, and guidelines for many aspects of Christian worship, Easter has been more or less calculated by locating the first full moon following March 21 on the Gregorian calendar.
And that’s how the date is calculated by Western churches today.
So, Christians who observe Lent are told to break their Lenten fast on Sunday and celebrate the feast.
The manner in which they break that fast varies, depending on the tradition.
And, increasingly, even nonreligious people are picking up the ritual. Lent is the greatest and most solemn period of fasting on the Christian church’s calendar, leading up to the celebration of Christianity’s greatest feast day: Easter.
The easiest way to understand the church calendar is as a sort of live immersive theater, designed to reenact the life of Jesus every year from Christmas (birth) to Easter (resurrection).