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Is Ash Wednesday the earliest it can be this year?


Myriams-Fotos | Pixabay

Philip Kosloski - published on 02/03/24

Ash Wednesday is on February 14 this year, but that is not the earliest date that Lent can begin.

Ash Wednesday is one of the moveable feasts in the Church’s liturgical calendar. It does not have a fixed date, like Christmas, when it is celebrated each year.

How is Ash Wednesday calculated?

Originally Lent wasn’t always 40 days, as it first started out as only a few days of fasting and in some cases, a mere 40 hours of preparation before Easter. Later the Church adopted a tradition of 36 days of fasting, representing a “tenth” of the calendar year.

According to the norms established by the Council of Nicaea (325) and later adopted for Western Christianity at the Synod of Whitby, Easter Sunday falls each year on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

But why 46? I thought Lent commemorated Jesus’ “40 days” in the desert.

The six Sundays in Lent are not considered part of the official “Lenten fast” (every Sunday is a special remembrance of the Resurrection of Christ), and so if you subtract six from 46, you get the full 40 days of Lent.

When is the earliest Ash Wednesday could be?

The earliest date Lent can start, counting back from the earliest date of Easter. is February 4, with Easter falling on March 22.

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