(Contributed by Ben)
At the moment, we’re in the church season of Lent. Most people don’t notice the different church seasons (for example, nobody remembers the seasons of Trinity and Ordinary Time), but Lent is different. During Lent, people give things up. For example, some people give up chocolate for Lent, or they try to stop smoking during this season. Many people try not to drink alcohol, or they give up meat. Lent is a Christian season, but a lot of non-religious people use it as a ‘fast’.
A ‘fast’ is the opposite of a feast. If you feast, you eat a lot. If you fast, you eat less. When you eat breakfast in the morning, you ‘break your fast’ (because you eat, after a few hours of not eating).
The most famous fast is probably the Islamic month of Ramadan. Lent isn’t normally taken as seriously as Ramadan. In Ramadan, people don’t eat anything, while the sun is in the sky. In Lent, people just give up one or two things. Lent is much easier! Some people do it for religious reasons, but some people use it as a chance to get healthy. If you made a new year’s resolution to eat less, but you failed, you might try again in Lent.
Lent lasts for 46 days. Officially it is ‘forty days, plus Sundays’ (because Sundays are considered the holy day). Its date is different every year. It runs up to Easter, and the date of Easter is based on the full moon and the equinox. The season begins in February or March, and it ends in March or April.
The other reason why people remember Lent is because of Pancake Day. Pancake Day (or ‘Shrove Tuesday’) is the day when almost everyone in England eats pancakes! Pancake Day is the day before Lent. It’s a feast, when people eat all their best food – chocolate, jam, sugar and lemon juice – before they give it up for Lent. Pancakes are my favourite food, so pancake day is my favourite day of the year. In other countries, pancake day is ‘Mardi Gras’ or ‘Carnevale’.
I love pancake day and Easter, and I celebrate them wholeheartedly. And because I keep the feasts, I also keep the fast. I normally give up one or two things for Lent, and I’m happy to have them again at Easter. Normally, I eat too much chocolate. But when I stop eating chocolate for Lent, I forget what it tastes like! At Easter, I eat a chocolate Easter-egg, and it tastes so strange! And then, normally, I fall into my old snack habits again.
Some people say it’s more positive to take things up for Easter – to start reading, or recycling, or doing good things – instead of giving things up. I quite like that idea. Maybe next year.
* This year Lent runs from the 1st of March until the 15th of April
* The traditional colours of Lent are black and violet. At Easter they are replaced with white and red.