The beginning of Orthodox Lent rarely, if ever, makes the news. In fact, I’ve never seen it make the news. The closest I’ve seen it come is what I saw on KVLY on Sunday night. There, they mentioned that in Russia, they had a big pancake eating celebration day and they noted the pre-pagan Christian connection to spring. The reality is, the Russians were eating blini because Sunday was cheesefare, the last day for dairy products. This is because Monday is the first day of Great Lent for us.
For Orthodox, Lent began with Forgiveness Vespers Sunday evening. Sometimes, in some parishes, such as ours, it is celebrated on Sunday afternoon, but either way, Monday is the first day of Great Lent. As important as Ash Wednesday is for Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians, Forgiveness Vespers is to Orthodox. It sets the trajectory for Lent. We are to enter into Lent by asking forgiveness of one another and, ultimately, of all of those around us.
May God forgive us all!