Lent is a holy time in Christianity. It is a 40-day period leading up to Easter. Celebrations of Lent have varied over the centuries and across different Christian sects, but it is basically a time of self-denial and avoidance of indulgent behaviors (illicit or otherwise) one engages in through the rest of the year, in favor of a return to the virtues of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Though Lent is celebrated throughout Christendom every year, there are periodic disagreements among various Christian sects about when it should be observed, since Easter is marked as the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (the so-called Paschal Moon), and the equinox is marked differently on the Julian and Gregorian Calendars. In 1598, for example, the Paschal Moon occurred on the Vernal Equinox, which was also a Saturday; therefore, sects whose liturgical calendar is based on the Gregorian celebrated Easter on 23 March, while those whose calendar was based on the Julian, believing that the Gregorian Paschal Moon had occurred in the winter and was thus not the Paschal Moon, did not celebrate Easter till 26 April, and thus adjusted the dates for Lent accordingly. There are also sometimes disagreements as to what should begin the 40-day period, whether Sundays count as part of the 40 days, and whether Lent ends with Easter Sunday or the Triduum, a three-day period of intense prayer and fasting which precedes it.
Lent in Ruled BritanniaEdit
The Catholic Church had Lent lasting from 4 February through 22 March in 1598, according to the Gregorian Calendar, and required all Catholics to fast intensely during that period, as it did every year. The Protestant Church of England, using the Julian Calendar, had Lent running from 11 March through 26 April (which it reckoned to be 1 March and 16 April, respectively). In England, where Spanish-backed Queen Isabella was persecuting Protestants, the Protestants' only options were to violate the Catholic Lenten fast, thus revealing themselves as Protestants; violate the Protestant Lenten fast, thus violating a tenet of their proscribed religion; or observe the grueling Lenten fast for 84 days straight, while simultaneously disguising the fact that they were enduring such rigors through the second half of the fast. Isabella's multinational force of soldiers looked forward to many heretofore secret Protestants revealing themselves during this period.
At the same time, Constable George Trimble threatened to issue a citation to a tavern keeper for serving meat in his establishment. The tavern keeper protested that all victuallers broke Lent occasionally but Trimble retorted that it was only Ash Wednesday and that it was to stamp out Protestantism and heresy. The tavern keeper was skeptical especially since Trimble had broken fast at the inn during past Lents. Trimble couldn't explain how the calendar made this Lent special. Lope de Vega, who happened to be passing by, could have explained it, but de Vega didn't think that either man would listen, so he said nothing and walked on.