2017 is one of those years when Eastern Orthodox (including Russian Orthodox) and Western (not just Catholic!) Christian churches celebrate Easter the same day. So one would think that they would all have their happy pancake time together as well. After all, Lent traditionally should last 40 days - the same number of days that Jesus Christ spent fasting in the wilderness.
But if you look at the calendars you will be surprised to see that western christians will be having their single pancake day (February 28) when the Orthodox have already had their long pancake week (February 20-26) and are 2 days into Lent! The funny thing is, if we take this year's Ester day - April 16 - and count 40 days back we will get March 11, which is neither Russian Orthodox, nor Western Christian beginning of Lent. How can that make sense mathematically?
Well, it doesn't. While maths is important in Christianity, it's not the main thing. That's why it gets a little complicated.
The Russian Orthodox Lent period lasts 48 days: first, 40 days straight, beginning on Monday after a whole week of Maslenitsa. Divide 40 days of Lent by 7 days of the week and you will get 6 weeks minus 2 days (6x7=42). These two days come at the end of the Lent and are Saturday before Palm Sunday (Lazarus Saturday) and Palm Sunday itself, when there's no fasting. The Holy Week (or Passion Week) that follows has 6 more days of fasting, which is another lent - the Lent of the Passion Week. So, all in all, 40+2+6= 48 days.
The Western Christian Lent period lasts 46 days and begins on Ash Wednesday which comes after Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (the pancake day). Since Sundays - even Sundays in Lent - in the Western Christian tradition are considered to be holidays of Resurrection, when there should be no sorrow and therefore no fasting, the six Sundays in Lent are not counted: 46-6=40.
Isn't that fascinating?
Here are some religious words used in the post!
to fast = not to eat (поститься). We can see this word in the word 'breakfast'. Since we don't eat at night, we break our fast in the morning by having breakfast!
Lent - пост
Palm Sunday - вербное воскресенье
Shrove Tuesday - прощёный вторник, масленица
Mardi Gras - жирный вторник, масленица (фр.)
Ash Wednesday - пепельная среда, начало Великого поста
Easter - Пасха
Resurrection - воскрешение, воскресение
wilderness = desert. Don't forget that 'wild-' in this world is pronounced with a short monophthong [i] and not a diphthong [ai]!
My name is Elena Rafaelevna Watson, I have been teaching English as a foreign language for over 25 years now. I have also been translating and interpreting (English/Russian) for over 20 years.