Beginson Septuagesima
Endson Shrove Tuesday
DateVariable (follows the paschal computus)
2023 date5 February–21 February
2024 date28 January–13 February
2025 date16 February–4 March
FrequencyAnnual (lunar calendar)
Related toLent, Easter

Pre-Lent begins the Christian time of preparation for Easter, in the three weeks before Lent.[1] This period launches a campaign of catechesis, reflected in the liturgical readings.[2] Its best-known feature is its concluding three-day festival, Carnival or Shrovetide.[3]

Western Churches

The pre-Lenten period begins with Septuagesima, first documented in Gregory the Great.[4][5] It traditionally opens a period of religious instruction leading to the reception of catechumens at Easter,[2] supported by events such as mystery plays.[6] The traditional lectionary for the canonical hours summarizes salvation history between Septuagesima and Easter, beginning with a reading of the Book of Genesis.[7] The last three days of pre-Lent are known as Carnival, Shrovetide, or Fastelavn, a festival ending with Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras.[8][9]

The liturgy of the period is characterized by violet vestments (except on feasts) and a more penitential mood.[10] From Septuagesima, Alleluia is not traditionally sung in worship.[10] A sermon of Hildebert explains the logic of this practice:

Moreover this day, which is, as it were, the gate of the fast, and takes away from us the song of joy, that is, Alleluia, shows our state of penitence and sorrow, teaching us that we ought to cease from immoderate joy, and remain in tears of repentance. We therefore repeat the hymn again and again, and address Alleluia itself, desirous of retaining it as a guest, and saying to it, Abide with us, for the day is far spent; and we then give it our last farewell, saying, The good angel of the Lord accompany you, that you may return again to us; that we may know that we shall not have perfect joy, until, renewed by the Body and Blood of our Redeemer, we receive that song with gladness.[11]

A custom developed during the Middle Ages of children burying an Alleluia on Septuagesima Eve.[12] It is possible for Candlemas (2 February) to fall after Septuagesima Sunday, creating occasional musical challenges.[13]

The pre-Lenten period includes three Sundays, whose names refer to the approximate periods of seventy, sixty, and fifty days before Easter. The Sundays are also known by the opening word of the introit for the day:[14]

While Lutheran and Anglican liturgies continue to mark a pre-Lenten period, the Roman Rite after 1970 eliminated Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima.[19] The preconciliar rites after the Second Vatican Council also continue to mark these seventeen days. The Revised Common Lectionary does not does not associate particular readings with the Sundays before Lent, but some users of this lectionary, such as the Church of England, have retrofitted a pre-Lenten provision.[20]

Eastern Churches

Main articles: Paschal cycle and Great Lent

In the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, the pre-Lenten period lasts three weeks.[1] It begins on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee and continues through the Sunday of Forgiveness, the day before the beginning of Great Lent.[21] Since the liturgical day begins at sunset, and Great Lent begins on a Monday, the point at which Great Lent begins is at Vespers on the night of the Sunday of Forgiveness, with a ceremony of mutual forgiveness. In some monasteries, this ceremony is performed at Compline instead of Vespers.

Thus begins the first day of the Great Fast, which is known as Clean Monday. The weeks of pre-Lent and Great Lent are anticipatory by nature. They begin on Monday and end on Sunday, each week being named for the theme of the upcoming Sunday. The hymns used during the pre-Lenten and Lenten seasons are taken from a book called the Triodion.

The weeks of the pre-Lenten Season break are:


  1. ^ a b Taft, Robert F. (1991). "Year, Liturgical". In Každan, Aleksandr Petrovič (ed.). The Oxford dictionary of Byzantium. New York: Oxford university press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780195046526.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  2. ^ a b Chavesse, Antoine (1950). "Temps de préparation à la Pâque d'après quelques livres liturgiques romains". Recherches de Science Religieuse (in French). 37 (1): 125–145. ISSN 0034-1258.
  3. ^ Cartlidge, Neil (2004). "The battle of Shrovetide: Carnival against Lent as a leitmotif in late medieval culture". Viator. 35: 517–542. doi:10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.300208. ISSN 0083-5897.
  4. ^ a b Crampton, L. J. (1968-04-01). "St Gregory's Homily XIX and the institution of Septuagesima Sunday". The Downside Review. 86 (283): 162–166. doi:10.1177/001258066808628306. ISSN 0012-5806. S2CID 164617825.
  5. ^ Callewaert, Camille (1 April 1937). "L'œuvre liturgique de S. Grégoire. La septuagésime et l'alleluia". Revue d'Histoire Ecclésiastique (in French). 33 (2): 306–326. ISSN 0035-2381. ProQuest 1302425959.
  6. ^ Craig, Hardin (1913-04-01). "The origin of the Old Testament plays". Modern Philology. 10 (4): 473–487. doi:10.1086/386899. ISSN 0026-8232. JSTOR 386899. S2CID 161763679.
  7. ^ Willis, Geoffrey G. (1958-04-01). "The historical background of the English lectionary of 1955". The Journal of Ecclesiastical History. 9 (1): 73–86. doi:10.1017/S0022046900063880. ISSN 0022-0469. S2CID 162572706.
  8. ^ "Shrovetide (n.)". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/OED/2819425396. The period comprising Quinquagesima Sunday and the two following days, 'Shrove' Monday and Tuesday. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  9. ^ Simpson, Jacqueline; Roud, Stephen (2000). "Shrovetide". A dictionary of English folklore. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780198607663.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-210019-1.
  10. ^ a b Mahrt, William (2017). "Gregorian chant in the season of Lent". Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal. 21 (2): 93–114. doi:10.1353/atp.2017.0012. ISSN 1543-9933. S2CID 194585704.
  11. ^ Alldrit, Nicolas (2000-03-01). "The Song of an Easter people". Theology. 103 (812): 97–107. doi:10.1177/0040571X0010300204. ISSN 0040-571X. S2CID 170166080.
  12. ^ Harvey, Nigel (1945-06-01). "Some further notes on Suffolk folklore". Folklore. 56 (2): 269–270. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1945.9717772. ISSN 0015-587X.
  13. ^ Procter, Michael (2008). "Byrd's music for Candlemas". Sacred Music. 135 (1): 24–29. ISSN 0036-2255. ProQuest 232421717.
  14. ^ Hiley, David (2010). "Septuagesima". In Bjork, Robert E. (ed.). The Oxford dictionary of the Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford university press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780198662624.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-866262-4.
  15. ^ Lovell, H.F. (1947-01-01). "Septuagesima: The call to endurance". The Expository Times. 58 (4): 103–104. doi:10.1177/001452464705800413. ISSN 0014-5246. S2CID 221079137.
  16. ^ Urkevich, Lisa (2012). "The wings of the Bourbon: The early provenance of the chansonnier London, British Library, MS. Royal 20 A. XVI". Journal of the Alamire Foundation. 4 (1): 91–113. doi:10.1484/J.JAF.1.102609. ISSN 2032-5371.
  17. ^ Collins, H. B. (1923). "Byrd's Latin Church music: For practical use in the Roman liturgy". Music & Letters. 4 (3): 254–260. doi:10.1093/ml/IV.3.254. ISSN 0027-4224. JSTOR 726958.
  18. ^ Leaver, Robin A. (1975). "Bach's understanding and use of the Epistles and Gospels of the Church year". Bach. 6 (4): 4–13. ISSN 0005-3600. JSTOR 41639962.
  19. ^ Pristas, Lauren (2010-07-01). "Parachuted into Lent: The suppression of Septuagesima". Usus Antiquior. 1 (2): 95–109. doi:10.1179/175789410X12729674260985. ISSN 1757-8949.
  20. ^ Church of England, ed. (2000). Common worship: services and prayers for the Church of England. London: Church House. ISBN 978-0-7151-2000-2.
  21. ^ Pfatteicher, Philip H. (2013-09-26). Journey into the heart of God: Living the liturgical year. New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199997121.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-936782-5.