I have not given up anything for Lent which is no surprise to anyone because I have not done so since the days of Catholic school so long ago. What about you? What did you give up for Lent?
Countdown to Easter
Lent (or as we used to call it – ‘”the countdown to Easter”) begins with Ash Wednesday, also an event I have not been present for since Catholic school. It’s not like it required any special exertion on my part back then. We had to go to mass everyday at 7:00 a.m. anyhow, so I was already there in the church. What was another trip down the aisle?
Ash Wednesday in the USA
In my hometown parish, the priest always made a big ashy cross on our foreheads with his thumb. We had a big, dirty badge of honor to wear all day, proof of how pious we were (or how pious you were not, if you didn’t have one). Well, not all day, we were kids and after about 2 or 3 hours of school the cross migrated to other parts of our face, onto our hands, and all over our school papers.
Ash Wednesday in Poland
Ash Wednesday in Poland or Środa Popielcowa looks a little different. In Poland, priests tend to make the cross more on top of the head or just sprinkle some ashes in your hair. You don’t get a distinct ash cross on your forehead. How, I wonder, can you show off the fact that you’ve been to church with practically no evidence to show for it?
Back to Catholic School
Later that day at Catholic school after receiving the ashy cross, we had to decide what we would give up for Lent. Of course, some of us tried to be funny and said that we were giving up homework or broccoli. Others were very ambitious declaring to give up television and chocolate and a favorite Barbie and video games. I usually gave up chocolate knowing that on Easter, the chocolate in my Easter basket would taste that much sweeter.
Making a List
After we all had decided what to give up for Lent, our teacher made a list of our names on the side of the chalkboard. She went around the room and asked each one of us what we had decided to give up for sure and then wrote our final decision, what we were giving up for Lent, on the board next to our name. Now everybody knew, and the spying could begin.
Little Johnny had given up sweets for Lent. There it was written on the chalkboard in black and white, but we saw him drinking chocolate milk at lunchtime. Chocolate milk surely must be considered a sweet. What should be done? Report it to the teacher, of course. And little Johnny was called to the front of the classroom. The interrogation could begin.
Teacher: What did you give up for Lent, Johnny?
Johnny: Sweets, Sister
T: And whose decision was it to give up sweets for Lent, Johnny?
J: It was mine, Sister.
T: Do you have something you want to tell us, Johnny?
Of course, he didn’t want to tell us, but most kids usually broke under the pressure and confessed. If not, the interrogation got cranked up a notch.
T: Not eating sweets for Lent…that’s a difficult thing to do, isn’t it, Johnny?
J: Yes, Sister. I really like sweets.
T: Yes, and Lent is so long and the sweets are so good. You must be a very brave boy, Johnny, to give up something you like so much Johnny.
Johnny is silent, not knowing where the teacher is leading. He senses a trap.
T: I’m sure Jesus would have liked to have the choice to give up sweets, but he didn’t, Johnny. Jesus gave up his life! His life for YOU, Johnny, and for all the rest of us and you cannot even give up sweets for a couple of weeks! His life, Johnny, his life!
No child could stand up to that argument and it usually ended with little Johnny crying, apologizing profusely, promising not to eat sweets, watch television, or play video games ever again. Ah, the fond memories of Catholic school.
The Sacrifice Of It All
Giving up sweets is a small sacrifice compared to Jesus giving up his life, but at least the motive is pure. I recently read an article about Japanese ladies who give up food in order to buy designer label goods. Giving up food to afford designer labels? How much did they eat?
I also read an article which stated that the more children you have, the fewer teeth you have on average. What does that have to do with anything? Connection #1 – that gum bleeding and gum disease is often hastened during pregnancy sometimes causing even healthy teeth to fall out and Connection #2 – that parents with a tight budget forgo dental visits (especially moms) in order to provide something for their children. I have to cop to that one and add ditto for the doctor and the hairdresser.
I have also had students who forgo one meal everyday in order to spend money on English lessons. What can I say to that? Hmmmm…
Money well spent! (Just kidding, please eat.)Chris
AnetaCuseFebruary 26, 2010 at 6:48 pm
I never understood the big cross on your forehead thing here in the US. Your Catholic school story, however, could have just as easily happened in Poland. No wonder you adapted to easily ;).P.S. I gave up sweets and alcohol. Not that I'm very religious, but it seemed like a good time to exercise some will power. It's been only 1-1/2 weeks and, to my surprise, I lost an inch or two here and there. Hmmm.
ChrisFebruary 26, 2010 at 9:20 pm
Sweets and alcohol?!? You are a tough one!
StardustFebruary 26, 2010 at 9:47 pm
I never in my entire life gave up anything for lent, and I don't think anybody in my family did, at least I never heard of. Catholic school sounds scary;)) maybe that's where the catholic guilt comes from;))
AgathaFebruary 26, 2010 at 10:25 pm
I try to eat less sweets… Does this count as giving up sth? AnetaCuse, I admire you… Alcohol… Sweets… Almost no pleasures for such a long time.
ChrisFebruary 27, 2010 at 7:19 am
Catholic school was pretty scary. Maybe that's why I'm so anti-everything now. Even today I feel guilty for eating chocolate during Lent.No alcohol and sweets…It reminds of a song from the '80s \”Don't drink, don't smoke. What do you do?\” Adam AntAgatha, eating less counts! I also try to exercise my will power from time to time with no coffee month or no meat month. With both my kids ill right now, it seems that this is going to be no sleep month 🙂
AnetaCuseFebruary 27, 2010 at 3:52 pm
Agatha: What do you mean no pleasures??? I do have a cute husband, you know ;).
AnonymousMarch 1, 2010 at 5:46 pm
How about the one I've just read: My boyfriend gave up me for Lent. Bummer?April
ChrisMarch 1, 2010 at 7:43 pm
That is a serious bummer.
Ashes and Traffic - Kielbasa StoriesJanuary 6, 2021 at 10:19 am
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Sallie AtkinsFebruary 16, 2023 at 10:55 pm
Being raised a Baptist in a very small town which had only the church my family attended and a Methodist church, I never heard of Lent until after I graduated from high school and ventured out into the wide, wide world. The first time I saw a co-worker with ashes on her forehead, I said “What in the world is that on your face?.” She couldn’t imagine that I didn’t know and thought I was either kidding her or insulting her.
ChrisFebruary 27, 2023 at 7:16 pm
If I hadn’t gone to Catholic school, I wouldn’t know half of the stuff that happens in the Polish calendar. My kids never know what’s up 🙂