Lent is that time every year, before Easter and after Pancake Day. You might feel like you should ‘give up’ something but you’re not sure why. You might think you should know the deeper meaning of Lent but you’re too embarrassed to ask.
We’re going to explain the basics and provide some suggestions of things to give up for Lent and where to start.
What Lent means
The Oxford Dictionary defines Lent as: (in the Christian Church) the period of 40 days from Ash Wednesday to the day before Easter, traditionally a time of fasting (= giving up food or certain types of food), prayer and giving to charity.
The heart of Lent is to try to be self-disciplined and remember the sacrifices of Jesus by fasting or changing habits. By practising restraint in this tangible way, we are regularly reminded throughout Lent what Jesus did for us and can feel closer to God.
Ever wonder why Lent is celebrated?
Lent reminds Christians of the days leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion by Rome. At the end of the 40 days, Jesus was crucified and then resurrected, which we mark through the celebration of Easter.
Why Lent is 40 days
40 is a number with Biblical significance. The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years and in Genesis, it rained for 40 days and nights during the great flood.
The 40 days of Lent is commonly accepted to replicate the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. During his time in the desert, Jesus went without food and relied on God to sustain him. During Lent, fasting, giving up certain things or practising self-discipline can remind us to look to God for support when we face moments of temptation.
In practice, Lent lasts more than 40 days as traditionally Sundays aren’t included.
Ash Wednesday meaning
Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent in Western Christian churches.
When Lent starts in 2023 and Lent dates 2023
In 2023, Lent dates are Wednesday 22 February – Thursday 6 April.
10 things to give up for Lent
Although you can give up certain things during Lent, you may also want to cut down or even give something new a go. It’s not about shaming yourself for doing particular things, but making choices that might use your time more wisely or honour God.
Social media. Either cut down or completely stop using social media for Lent. Remove the noise and busyness of a constantly updating feed and the influence of other people’s opinions and use the time you’ve gained to seek God, read the Bible or pray.
Be active. Practice self discipline and challenge yourself to move your body more during this season. Add in additional movement that you feel comfortable with to your daily routine.
Binge watching TV. Cut down on compulsively watching different TV series and use the time to take up a practice that will nourish you. At CAP, we read a faith-based book together throughout Lent every year.
Gossip. Make a conscious effort to avoid repeating gossip and taking part in that cycle of negativity. Change the subject if you need to and focus on speaking positively about people.
Staying up late. Sleep is good for you. Try to go to bed one hour earlier during Lent. Sleeping more means you are honouring God with your body and your health.
Busyness. It’s easy to believe that busyness = success. But God wants us to rest! He made a whole day for it. Cut down on social and work commitments and carve out specific time during the week to spend with God.
Online shopping. If you find yourself impulse spending online or you spend emotionally if you feel down, it might be time to try going cold turkey. Try completely stopping online shopping or only shopping for essentials during Lent.
Meat. You could cut meat out for just one day of the week or go vegan for the whole season. Do whatever is most meaningful to you. If you crave meat during Lent, use those prompts to pray or read your Bible.
Caffeine. If you rely on your morning coffee to wake you up, use that feeling of discomfort as you withdraw from your daily pick-me-up to focus on God. If you’re saving money by not buying hot drinks each week, you could donate what you save to charity too.
Get your finances in order. If you’ve been putting off looking at your finances or addressing some problem debt, now is as good a time as any. Read our budgeting advice to create a budget you can stick to and get help with your debt.