Lent, in the Roman Catholic Church is observed forty days before Easter. It is the time set aside for reflection, self evaluation and often some kind of sacrifice, usually fasting. During these forty days the Lent church decorations are subdued until Good Friday, or Holy Friday in some countries, when there are no decorations. Lent is a time of prayer and preparation for Easter. The 40 days symbolizes Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, reflecting. Some churches used to use a desert theme when decorating their church during Lent, but this is not popular any more.
The color for repentance is purple as seen in the purple advent candles, so purple, dark violet or red violet are usually the colors used for any small decorations during Lent. They symbolize the suffering of Jesus before the crucifixion and also the suffering of humanity. In ancient times purple also represented royalty reminding the people the king will rise on Easter Sunday. Some Lent church decorations are gray symbolizing ashes for Ash Wednesday. Any decorations at this time should remind of repentance and reflection. Some Anglican churches use beige or white cotton with black or red trim for symbolize penitence.
Often churches do not use any fresh flowers for their Lent church decorations. They will use dried flowers or leaves and use fresh lilies for the cross on Easter Sunday. On Good or Holy Friday and Holy Saturday only black is used. They are the only days black is used to decorate the church. It symbolizes darkness and death, both Jesus’ and life without God. The black is always removed and fresh white flowers are put before sunrise on Easter Sunday.
A rough, wooden cross should be the focal point of Lent church decorations. It can be draped with purple cloth during Lent and black cloth on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. On Easter Sunday it should be draped with white or gold and white flowers. Until recent times any prominent statues in the church were hung with purple cloth over their faces as a sign of sadness. Children can make reversible banners to hang in the church. With the correct color combinations the Lent side can be somber and humble and on Holy Saturday, the banner is flipped over and the happy Easter side is shown.
Whether a Roman Catholic Church or a Protestant church the Lent church decorations should be dull colored and subdued. No flowers or bright colors. Stay with dark purple and brown, including dried leaves etc. and eliminate all decorations the Thursday before Easter. If you are planning a wedding, you may want to avoid the time during Lent. Although there are no restrictions when a marriage can be celebrated, except for Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, you will need to observe the rules for decorating the church and not change the traditional decorations. You will be aloud to put some flowers, but during Lent you may not be able to have as festive a church as you would have liked.
This article was published on Sunday 10 January, 2010.