Why are English-speaking Christians the only ones to call it “Lent”?

Why do English-speaking Christians use words like Lent and Easter?

Everywhere else in Christendom, those terms are not used except among German-speaking people.

In French, Lent is called la Careme; in Spanish, la Cuaresma.  Both words are corruptions of the Lation quadragesima, which means “40th” as in the 40 days of Lent.  Lent consists of 40 days of fasting from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, not counting Sundays.  The 40 days reflect the 40 days of fasting that Jesus is said to have done in preparation for going public on His mission.

By the way, the day before all of this fasting begins–Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday)–is known elsewhere in the world by the word carnival (rooted in the Latin word for meat–the word caro).  Thus, a carnival  originated as a festival of meat-eating.

In English, the season of fasting in preparation for Easter is called Lent, because much of English is from German-speaking settlers from the early Middle Ages called Angles and Saxons.  The Anglo-Saxon influence in English resulted in words that English-speaking Christians use which nobody else uses.

Lent is rooted in the German word meaning long (lang).  It refers to the lengthening daylight of this time of year.

Easter is from the German word for the goddess of the dawn, Oestre.  The name Oestre itself is from the proto-Indo-European word meaning gold, as in the golden dawn.  The root word is aus.  Derived from this proto-root word aus is the symbol for gold:  AU, taken from the Latin word aurum.  (The word Austria is derived from this word meaning the area where the golden dawn rises–the East.  In its own language, Austria is called Oesterreich–the eastern kingdom.)

The Germanic word Oestre  is connected to the word meaning the direction from which the Sun rises:  east (ost).  Oestre and Ost combine to give us the German word for Easter (Ostern).

The celebration of Spring involved worship of this goddess of the dawn, Oestre.  The reason her name became connected to the Christian holy day is:  Easter is held in the Spring, because it is linked with the Jewish date for Passover, which itself is thought to have gotten its dating from prehistoric times originally as a celebration of the arrival of Spring.

Aside from the English-speaking and German-speaking populations, the word for Easter is related to the Hebrew word for Passover–the word Pesach. 

Easter is connected to Passover.  Jesus made His final pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the occasion of the Jewish celebration of Passover.  All Jewish men were expected to journey to Jerusalem for Passover.

Passover, of course, derives from the story that an Angel of Death devastated the Egyptian overlords of the Hebrew slaves, but “passed over” the homes of the captives.

The date for Passover would be what today is the evening of Good Friday, extending into Holy Saturday.  As the Hebrew people were instructed to kill lambs and spread the blood over their doors so that the Angel of Death would see it and “pass over,” Jesus Himself is killed as a sacrifice–the Lamb of God–in order for the wrath of God to be diverted from punishing sinners.

(That’s the ancient theology, at least.)

Thus, Jesus is called the Passover Lamb–or, using an adjective from the Hebrew word for PassoverPesach–He is called the Paschal Lamb.

Thus, Easter in most languages is rooted in the word for paschal or pesach.

Spanish:  Pascua

Italian:  Pasqua (from which of course is derived the name Pasquale)

Greek and Russian:  Pashka

French:  Paques

And–for egg-coloring fans–in Dutch the word for Easter is Pasen.

In the 19th Century, there was a pharmacist in Newark, New Jersey who sold powdered dyes that could be used for coloring Easter eggs.  He had many customers who were Pennsylvania Dutch.  They referred to Easter as Pasen.  From their word Pasen, the owner of the pharmacy named his Easter egg-coloring business Paas.




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