Today, known as Ash Wednesday within Christianity, marks the start of the Lenten season, the 40-day long period between now and Easter Sunday. Those who choose to adhere to traditional guidelines will celebrate by
fasting (eating one full meal plus two smaller ones each day) and abstaining from eating meat on Fridays. Meanwhile, others will choose not to fast but still give up or avoid a source of pleasure (like chocolate, alcohol, or social media) until Lent ends.
However a person celebrates Lent, the general goal is to remove distractions from their faith and to spend Lent recommitting themselves to God. Obviously, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor, so how someone chooses to observe Lent is a very individual decision.
To get a better idea of how people are celebrating Lent this year, we asked R29 readers what their plans are, and why they choose to observe in Lent.
Name: Allison Age: 26
Why do you observe Lent? “As a Christian in the reformed tradition, I believe it’s important to honor our religious holidays — similar to how Muslims observe Ramadan or Jews observe Yom Kippur. Lent is a time of reflection, a time to sacrifice in order to better yourself, and (most importantly) a time to remember how Jesus gave his life for our sins.”
How are you celebrating this year? “I once had a minister tell us that Lent was a time of sacrifice to better yourself and your world around you, as Christ did when he died for our sins. Simply put, giving up chocolate might not help you reflect on the real meanings of Lent. Some years, I have tried to do random acts of kindness every day for people I know and strangers. This year, I’m giving up buying the second cup of coffee I get every day and the money I save will be donated to a charity. I work in the nonprofit sector, so being able to donate my meager earnings to charity is hard enough as it is, and I’m also trying to cut back the money I spend. I felt this was a good way to combine the two things I would like to do in order to improve myself and the world around me.”
Name: Elizabeth Age: 25
Why do you observe Lent? “It’s an important part of my faith and an important time for renewal and reflection and sacrifice.”
How are you celebrating this year? “Committing acts of kindness and not swearing.”
Name: Meg Age: 25
Why do you observe Lent? “To me, it’s the most essential part of being Catholic. It serves as a time of contemplation and simplicity — you get to set aside the things that might be nice (chocolate, Facebook, etc.) and return to the parts of your life that bring meaning and satisfaction, such as faith, charity, volunteerism, and spending time with your church community and family. You’re taking a set time to get back to the tenets that Jesus wanted us to focus on.”
How are you celebrating this year? “I’m not the most regular church-goer during the rest of the year, but I try to go to Mass every Sunday of Lent — it’s how I get out of labeling myself a Chreaster Catholic. I’m also going to put some kind of financial limit on myself: no discretionary spending, cutting my budget for food. I am constantly inspired by the vows of poverty that some nuns and priests take for life, and while this is not nearly so extreme, it should be an interesting challenge.”
Name: Lindsay Age: 34
Why do you observe Lent? “I’m Catholic so it’s a must.”
How are you celebrating this year? “I will abstain from meat on Fridays, though I don’t have to fast since I’m nursing. I also decided I will give up wearing makeup for all of Lent. It’s kind of ambitious, but I feel like it’s a good time in our society for a woman to feel like she can be her authentic self and feel brave enough to have 40 days without a barrier. I love makeup and plan on going back at Easter but the reminder every time I look in the mirror will put me in the right Lenten perspective.”
Name: Caroline Age: 17
Why do you observe Lent? “I like to do something that allows me to think about others’ suffering and appreciate how lucky I truly am. When I give something up, I think I am dying without it and then [by] Easter morning I enjoy it again. Some people don’t get to enjoy it after 40 days. For some people, the suffering never ends. Lent lets me remember that.”
How are you celebrating this year? “I’m going to be more aware of my cursing and negative mindset. I want to give up being critical and negative thinking. Also I’m giving up popcorn, lol.”
Name: India Age: 24
Why do you observe Lent? “It’s a way to give up a non-essential good for the sake of a greater good. I’m religious, and Lent reminds me that most of the things that I crave are just distractions and maybe even my own false idols. Giving them up for 40 days allows me to realize that they aren’t as important as I think.”
How are you celebrating this year? “I’m going to give up social media, because I use it entirely too much. It’ll be hard, but I’ll figure it out…hopefully. Also, I’m giving up sweets because my dad does it every year, and I’ve joined him since I was a kid.”
Name: Michayla Age: 21
Why do you observe Lent? “I look at it as a time to recenter myself in my faith.”
How are you celebrating this year? “I’m going to give up sleeping in late. Instead, I’ll wake up earlier and be more productive. Sleeping in is one of my favorite daily pleasures, but the purpose of Lent is to deny yourself and give up a small comfort so that every time we feel uncomfortable because of it, we can remember Christ’s suffering for our own sake.
Name: Marissa Age: 24
Why do you observe Lent? “Even though I am not totally devout as I should be, Lent is a time for me to explore my spirituality and learn more about my relation to religion. Giving up something for Lent every year is also something I enjoy doing and that makes me feel more in touch with the concept of sacrifice and challenge. I think Lent is a practice that is more approachable, accessible, and doable than other Catholic practices.”
How are you celebrating this year? “I am giving up coffee, as I did last year, and also trying to give up sugar for Lent. I also plan on going to church more often and being grateful for what I have.”
Name: Maya Age: 23
Why do you observe Lent? “ I try to [observe it every year]. I’m a Christian and I do it as an exercise in sacrifice leading up to Holy Week and Easter.”
How are you celebrating this year? “I don’t give up anything that I wouldn’t feel the loss of — what would be the point?! This year I’m going to give up masturbation and try to include exercise in my daily routine. Honestly [I’m] not interested in doing either, so that’s probably even more of a reason for me to do both.”
Name: Hadley Age: 20
Why do you observe Lent? “It’s a chance for me to reflect on what my faith means to me and work on bettering myself. I don’t consider myself to be very religious, but I do believe in God and consider myself a Christian.”
How are you celebrating this year? “This year, whenever I have a nice thought about someone or have the urge to give someone a compliment, I will! I did this last year and it made me happier each day to tell people nice things. I’m also going to do yoga, meditate, or stretch every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.”
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