I know I already blogged today, but in honor of Ash Wednesday I thought I'd write about the historical and current importance of lent.
Contrary to popular belief lent is not just a Catholic holiday, not all protestants practice it but some do, including myself. Traditionally, observers gave up meat, eggs, and dairy. Today people usually give up a vice, such as chocolate, or soda. Also many observers today do not realize that if you count the days between ash Wednesday and Easter, they add up to more than 40. So why is it called the 40 days of Lent? Because biblically the law forbid fasting on the sabbath, and to Christians the Sabbath is on Sunday, and the forty days are from Ash Wednesday to Easter, not including Sundays.
So what is the meaning of Lent? Historically Lent has two purposes, Religious Beliefs and economic nessecity. In terms of religion, Lent is a time of purification, sacrifice and study, and on Easter you would be baptized, join the church, take communion, or otherwise be refreshed for the new year. The economic purpose is more complicated and subtle. Meat, eggs, and dairy are a mostly renewable resource, but if you do not dry off your goat or cow during the spring, she will not go into estrus and have young. meaning you will not have future milk and meat. if you eat your eggs during the spring there will be no hatchlings, and if you eat all the meat, well you're just screwed.
Today Lent is a time to improve yourself, and it still carries the same religious purposes. Lent is a time of getting rid of things that separate you from God, because anything that does that is sin. Also it is a time when you can improve yourself, sometimes your sacrifice can mean you are giving up something that you love but is not good for you (like sweets or biting your fingernails) you can give up something as a symbolic sacrifice, to remind you of the time of mourning. Or you could take on a project or a good habit, such as reading a book, studying the bible, working out, spending more time with your family. this is a commitment, and it requires the sacrifice of time and energy.
This year for lent I have a theme, taking better care of my physical being. I am trying to raise my amount of exercise, eat better, and do things to generally keep myself healthy and happy and out of the nurses office.