After the spree of Carnival celebrations, the sober moment of Lent arrives. Lent is the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. The word Lent in Spanish is Lent , which comes from the word forty , which means forty, because Lent lasts forty days (plus six Sundays that are not counted). For Christians, this is traditionally a time of sobriety and abstinence that corresponds to the time that Jesus spent in the desert. Many people decide to give up something they enjoy for Lent, such as candy or alcohol.
In Mexico, it is customary to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent.
Mexican food for Lent:
Some foods are traditionally associated with the Lenten season in Mexico. It is very common to eat seafood on Fridays during Lent; Fish and shrimp are very popular. Another commonly eaten food at this time of year is waking empanadas . These empanadas are made with a flour dough and filled with vegetables or seafood. A dessert that is often served during this time of year is the capirotada, which is a kind of Mexican bread pudding with raisins and cheese. The ingredients of the capirotada are believed to represent Christ’s suffering on the cross (the bread symbolizes his body, the syrup is his blood, the nails are the nails on the cross, and the melted cheese represents the shroud).
Read more about Mexican food for Lent on the Mexico Cooks blog!
The dates of Lent vary from year to year as do the dates of Carnival and Easter. In the Western church (as opposed to the Eastern Orthodox church which celebrates on a different date), Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after the vernal equinox. The dates of Lent for the next few years are:
- 2018 – February 14 to March 29
- 2019 – March 6 to April 19
- 2020 – February 26 to April 9
- 2021 – February 17 to April 2
- 2022 – March 2 to April 16
The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday. On this day, the faithful go to mass in the church and at the end of the service, people line up for the priest to draw the sign of the cross in ashes on the forehead. This is a sign of regret and is meant to remind people of their mortality. In Mexico, many Catholics leave ashes on their foreheads all day as a sign of humility.
The six Fridays of Lent:
In some regions of Mexico, there are special celebrations that take place every Friday during Lent. For example, in Oaxaca, the fourth Friday of Lent is Samaritan’s Day , the fifth Friday of Lent is celebrated in nearby Etla at the Iglesia del Señor de las Peñas. The custom is similar in Taxco, where there is a celebration every Friday during Lent in a different nearby town.
The sixth and last Friday of Lent, the Friday before Palm Sunday, is known as Friday of Sorrows , “Friday of Sorrows.” This is a day of devotion to the manifestation of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross, known as Our Lady of Sorrows. Altars are installed in churches, businesses and private homes in honor of the Virgen de los Dolores, with special attention to her pain and suffering for the loss of her son. These altars will contain certain specific elements, such as glasses of water representing the Virgin’s tears, citrus fruits to represent the bitterness of her pain, and ceramic animals covered in chia buds (“Chia pets”) because the buds represent a new life and resurrection.
Palm Sunday, known in Mexico as Palm Sunday, is a week before Easter and is the official start of Holy Week. On this day, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is commemorated, when he was welcomed by a hero and the people spread their palms before him. Craftsmen set up stalls outside churches to sell intricately woven palm trees in the shape of crosses and other designs. In some places, there are processions that recreate the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem.
Read about the traditions surrounding Holy Week and Easter in Mexico.