Each year during Lent, I face a conundrum: do I get to indulge in the things I’ve given up on Sundays because they are considered by some to be feast days. Before I get to the answer, let me provide some background on what Lent is for those who are unfamiliar with it.
What is Lent?
Lent is the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter that is observed by many Christians. It symbolizes the 40 days that Jesus was in the wilderness and was tempted by the devil to disobey God. Â Each faith has its own rules for observance. I do the following during lent:
- Choose something to give up throughout the period (or do something to better oneself such as exercise each day or read an article to strengthen one’s faith each day).
- No meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays (this is easy for me as I am a vegetarian).
- Fasting on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays: one regular meal plus two snacks that are smaller than a full meal. Note: if this interferes with your health, your ability to work, etc… then you can skip this.
The purpose of giving something up is twofold. Some give up something they love as a sacrifice to strengthen their faith. Others give up something that is bad for them and use the season to kick a bad habit. Â I’ve given up soda, cookies, candy, junk food and meat in the past. In the case of meat and soda, which I gave up in 2004 and 2008 respectively, I ended up giving them up permanently. Â Others have given up alcohol, social media, smoking, swearing or gossiping to name a few.
What if I’m not Christian?
A lot of people find religion to be a four letter word and anything related to religion turns them off. This is unfortunate as religion is a fascinating topic and many faiths have aspects that everyone can benefit from. In this case, there’s nothing to stop you from giving up a bad habit during this time period or adding in a good one.
Back to the question
So there are 46 days during the period and Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days. Some astute folks have realized that there are five Sundays plus an additional feast day in St. Patrick’s Day that make up the difference. I’ve talked to a number of priests and many are okay with indulging on feast days. Others believe that indulging on these days defeats the purpose of giving something up. With that being said, there is no official rule so it’s one of those situations where you can interpret it how you want.
So what am I doing?
I have chosen to indulge over the past several years, but I’ve chosen not to “cheat” this year. I’m trying to grow spiritually so I’m going to take the harder option. I’ve given up candy and cookies this year (which I’ve done the past several years). I did polish off a sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mints on Fat Tuesday (the day before Lent started) and I’ve gathered some sweets that I’ll be ready to dive into at 12:01 AM on Easter (I may try to hold off until I at least go to mass).
Whether or not you celebrate or partake in Lent, I hope that the season is a positive one for you.