After enjoying an indulgent Pancake Day, it's time for the self-restraint of Lent to begin. Back in the fourth century, baptisms typically took place on Easter Sunday, so the six weeks of Lent would be a time of purification in preparation for this, as well as the important Easter-time commemoration of the death and resurrection of Christ. These six weeks also came to be associated with the forty days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert, and his repeated resistance to the temptations of the Devil.
Traditionally, Christians would take up three practices during Lent: prayer, fasting (giving up of meat, fat, eggs and dairy products) and almsgiving. These acts would encompass justice towards God, oneself and one's fellow men (and women). Some people still hold these three practices through giving up something they enjoy, doing something that will bring them closer to God and contributing towards charitable work. For people of all belief systems it can be a useful time to practice self-restraint, exercise your will power and experiment with your lifestyle. What will you give up for Lent? Chocolate is a common choice in the lead up to the Easter bonanza, but here are some other ideas, taken from my own experience:
- Refined sugar (ie no sugar/glucose syrup etc, but fruit are okay) — You'll be surprised at how many products have added sugar. See how it would be if you were diabetic. Good for you skin, energy levels and waistline too!
- TV/video games — Free your mind, see how much extra time you have and what creative things you can find to do with it!
- Facebook/YouTube/MySpace... whatever website eats up most of your time — find out if it really gives you enough to be worth spending (wasting?) all that time on.
- Meat — try being veggie for six weeks. You might be surprised at how many tasty non-meaty meals are out there.
- Smoking — a good time for that renewed intention to quit. Maybe you can find a healthier addiction to replace it with (I recommend running, swimming, gardening, knitting/crochet, or writing Haiku or acronym poems).
- Alcohol &/or coffee/tea — we all know they're not good for us but have you ever found out what it's really like to abstain? Can you have fun going out without the aid of an intoxicating beverage? Can you wake yourself up and make it through the day without a caffeine hit?
And in addition to all the benefits of giving up unhealthy habits, you'll gain the experience of living without and resisting temptation for six weeks — or at least attempting to!
Let us know if you have any interesting suggestions for what to give up and how you get on.
Good luck :)