When Does Lent End?

It depends on what you mean by the question

Pope Francis Conducts The Palm Sunday Celebrations In St Peter's Square
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Every year, debate rages among Catholics about when Lent ends. Some sources 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  the question "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.

When most people ask "When does Lent end?" what they mean is "When does the Lenten fast end?" The answer to that question is Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday), which is the 40th day of the 40-day Lenten fast. (While Holy Saturday is 46th day since Ash Wednesday, including both Holy Saturday and Ash Wednesday, Sundays are not included in the Lenten fast. There are six Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday; 46 minus 6 equals 40. For a more in-depth explanation, read about how the 40 Days of Lent are calculated.)

The End of the Liturgical Season of Lent

Liturgically, however, Lent ends two days earlier, on Holy Thursday—or rather, it has 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.

(Until the revision of the calendar in 1969, the Lenten fast and the liturgical season of Lent were coextensive; both began on Ash Wednesday and ended on Holy Saturday.)

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 Catholics incorrectly think is a separate liturgical season from Lent. (As paragraph 28 of the General Norms shows, it is not.) Sometimes, it stems from a misunderstanding of how the 40 days of the Lenten fast 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.

When Does Lent End?

You can find the dates of Holy Thursday and of Holy Saturday in this and future years in the articles below:

More FAQs About Lent