celebrated the last 3 days before Lent. In France, the day is known as
Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). Mardi Gras celebrations are also held in several
American cities, particularly in New Orleans. The day is sometimes called
Pancake Tuesday by the English because fats, which were prohibited during
Lent, had to be used up.
* Ash WednesdayThe first day of the Lenten season, which lasts
40 days. Having its origin sometime before A.D. 1000, it is a day of public
penance and is marked in the Roman Catholic Church by the use of ashes
from palms blessed on previous Palm Sundays and burned for this purpose.
With his thumb, the priest then marks a cross upon the forehead of each
worshipper. The Anglican church in the United States also observes the day,
but generally without the use of ashes.
* Palm SundayIs observed the Sunday before Easter to commemo-
rate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The procession and the ceremonies
introducing the benediction of palms probably had their origin in Jerusalem.
For Greek Orthodox, Palm Sunday is the first day of Greek Orthodox
* Holy WeekAll the days of the week preceding Easter have special
connotation as they relate to the events of the last days in the life of Jesus.
Beginning with Palm Sunday, each of these days takes on a special impor-
* Holy Thursday (in Holy Week)This day, often referred to as
Maundy Thursday, is marked by the sacrament of Holy Communion in
remembrance of the Last Supper which Jesus observed with His disciples.
* Good FridayThis day commemorates the Crucifixion of Jesus. A
feature in Roman Catholic churches is the Liturgy of the Passion: there is no
Consecration, the Host having been consecrated the previous day.
* Easter SundayObserved in all Christian churches, Easter commem-
orates the Resurrection of Jesus. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after the
full moon that occurs on or next after March 21 and is, therefore, celebrated
between March 22 and April 25 inclusive.
Differences concerning the date of Easter arose between the East and
the West as early as the second century. The date of the Orthodox Easter was
finally fixed by the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, which decreed that Easter
should be celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first full
moon after the vernal equinox (the first day of spring), but always after the
Hebrew Passover. This maintains consistency with the Biblical sequence of
events. The Easter of the Western churches is not necessarily preceded by the
Once every few years, the dates for Easter in Eastern and Western
churches coincide, though not in a fixed pattern. When they do not fall on