Every year, debate rages about when Lent ends. Some say Palm Sunday (or perhaps the Saturday before Palm Sunday); others say Holy Thursday; still others say Holy Saturday. There ought to be a simple answer, right?
The question, however, is a little trickier than it looks, because the answer depends on what you mean by "When does Lent end?"
The End of the Lenten Fast
Just as Lent has two starting days—Ash Wednesday, in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and in those Protestant churches that observe Lent, and Clean Monday for the Eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox—so, too, Lent has two ending days. What most people mean by "When does Lent end?" is "When does the Lenten fast end?" The answer to that question is Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday), which is the 46th day since Ash Wednesday (if you include Ash Wednesday) but the 40th day of the 40-day Lenten fast. (For an explanation of the discrepancy, see How Are the 40 Days of Lent Calculated?)
The End of the Liturgical Season of Lent
Liturgically, however, Lent ends two days earlier, on Holy Thursday—at least since 1969, when the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar , which govern the revised Roman calendar used in the celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass, were released. More specifically, paragraph 28 of the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar states, "Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord's Supper exclusive." In other words, liturgically speaking, Lent ends just before the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday evening, when the liturgical season of the Easter Triduum begins.
Holy Week Is Part of Lent
One answer that is commonly given to the question "When does Lent end?" is Palm Sunday (or the Saturday before). In most cases, this stems from a misunderstanding of Holy Week, which some incorrectly think is a separate liturgical season from Lent (as paragraph 28 of the General Norms shows, it is not), or from a misunderstanding of how the 40 days of Lent are calculated. But Holy Week, up until the Easter Triduum starts, is liturgically part of Lent, and all of Holy Week, through Holy Saturday, is part of the Lenten fast.
You can find the dates of Holy Thursday and the dates of Holy Saturday for this and future years below.
|Dates of Holy Thursday - Various Years|
|• When Is Holy Thursday 2014?|
|• When Is Holy Thursday 2015?|
|• When Is Holy Thursday 2016?|
|• When Is Holy Thursday 2017?|
|• When Is Holy Thursday 2018?|
|• When Is Holy Thursday 2019?|
|Dates of Holy Saturday - Various Years|
|• When Is Holy Saturday 2014?|
|• When Is Holy Saturday 2015?|
|• When Is Holy Saturday 2016?|
|• When Is Holy Saturday 2017?|
|• When Is Holy Saturday 2018?|
|• When Is Holy Saturday 2019?|
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