March 9th, 2011
09:47 AM ET

Explain it to me: What's Lent? And what are you giving up?

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season when many Christians give something up in the weeks before Easter. It's a nod to Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the desert before beginning his ministry. 

Some folks are giving up Facebook. Others are cutting down on their carbon emissions.

Are you giving something up? If so, let us know - and explain your choice.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Easter • Holidays • Lent

soundoff (1,213 Responses)
  1. Luke

    I'm giving up Lent for Lent

    March 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Matt

      Hahaha nice!

      March 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • stephanie

      These comments make me so sad. What a shame.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Just Me

      Stephanie....don't read them then!!!! S'not rocket science

      March 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • javier o.

      im givin up food if u do so make sure u have enough water plz god bless

      March 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Pablo

      Gave up Catholicism for Lent 35 years ago – such a great idea I made it permanent.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • DK

      Pretty sure you have to make a habit of something before you can give it up. Still think you're clever?

      March 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Retta

      Wow....still no shortage of ignorance in the world today. The things people say .......

      March 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • David

      One should try to sacrifice something that will benefit others rather than themselves.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  2. ChomskyisKing

    These atheists are completely ridiculous..Its amazing how much effort they take to fight against something they supposedly don't believe in...I guess the moral of the story is that it may be hard to defend the truth, but to defend ignorance like the atheists in massively more difficult and takes much more effort

    March 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • keith

      Atheism = the religion of the ignorant, These people have some backwater knowledge of what they think Christianity is combined with an emotional disdain for God – then they mix it in with bad philosophy and pseudo-evidences for their emotionally driven views

      March 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • none

      Reality is persistent, isn't it?

      See, it would be quite simple to shut atheists up: present evidence. It's a very simple request.

      For example, what evidence do you have that smearing ashes on your forehead pleases a non-physical, non-detectable, super-being?

      March 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • none




      March 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • keith


      probably the intricacies of the human body, the universe, love, intellect, emotion...should be enough to convince anyone...This is why atheists comprise less than 3% of the worlds population

      March 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  3. MEAT

    I'm eating a roast beef, turkey, and ham sandwich right now and it's delicious! I will be eating steak and drinking beer tonight, and every night for the next 40 days!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  4. moldme

    As a spirit filled Christian I feel no need to participate in lent. 1st of all I try to live my life according to God's word and Jesus's example, laying down worldly things every day and living a set apart life, as us all Christians are called to live. 2ndly lent is not biblical. Yes some Biblical ideas and actions might be contained and represented through this "holiday" but it is not stated anywhere in the Bible that this is any Christian act that anyone needs to, or is required to, participate in. Going back to the previous issues people had with the Christians that they knew that were not doing "good" or behaving as a Christian should, that is those Christian's own personal walk with Christ you are talking about. Something that you should not base your ideas of what a Christian is on. Read the Bible to see what a real Christian should be. Lent is making Christianity into a religion and it is not. Christianity is and should be a real relationship with Jesus. That's why God sent His Son to come and die for us ALL, because He loves us that much! He is our Heavenly Father who desires a relationship with you. A brilliant way to develop such a relationship is reading your bible and going to church, but REMEMBER with a real relationship comes REAL CHANGE. Lent is a religious act that people count as a religious act. Religion itself is a sin and you can look it up in the Bible if you don't believe me. Why not make everyday a day that you live and give completely to Him. Submitting your flesh to His spirit. If you have any questions why not just call on the name of Jesus and ask Him. He is alive and waiting for you to call out to him. All the skeptics out there reading this, you obviously like to read so why don't you go do some real research and read the Bible to get information about Christianity or ask The Creator, God Almighty Himself.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  5. Rick

    I usually do two things for lent. I give up one thing (facebook), and I commit to doing another (at least 30 minutes of exercise, every day of Lent). The idea is to give up one thing that you would rather not do without, and the other is to do something to better myself. Of course, simply making a sacrifice is all well and good, but one should also be committed to attending church on each of the holy days during Lent. Additionally, one should fast today and every Friday during Lent, in addition to abstaining from eating red meat. Jesus gave his life to save you from your sins. The least you can do, is to make a token sacrifice to honor his.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  6. Bazoing

    Give up the Catholic church for lent. (Do not give up Jesus, Pharisees like the Catholic hierarchy are not His fault.)

    March 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  7. Susan

    To KMW, thank you for your kind words.

    To Dan, let me ask you this. Where should social policy come from? And I mean that sincerely. And, what are the social policies you feel have been implemented by the religious that you would change? I'm speaking only in terms of the US. My question can also be applied to the other things you mentioned, except war.

    Even if there was no religion, there would still be war. Take a look at how people behave, beginning when they're toddlers. People are inherently selfish and want their own way. In addition, it is very sad to me that wars have been fought in the name of Christianity. Those people deluded themselves. Please keep in mind that not everyone who calls him/herself a Christian truly is. Jesus said that many would come to him one day and call him Lord. He will tell them he never knew them.

    Being a Christian isn't a label you apply to yourself. Being a Christian is having a personal relationship with God through his son, Jesus Christ. And this relationship is an ongoing life-changing one in which if you allow him to, God will transform you from the inside out, making you kinder, more patient, loving. God is love, and the life a true Christian should reflect that.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Content

      Very nicely put.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  8. CareJack

    I am giving up Jesus

    March 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  9. Alicia

    The Lenten season asks us to do three things to bring us closer to Christ: 1. prayer 2. fasting/abstainment 3. almsgiving. We are mimicking what Christ did during his own temptation.

    Prayer is self-explanatory and should help us refocus on the eternal, not temporal. God made us distinct from animals in our ability to consider the divine and the greatest gift thereof – love. We are supposed to live with a servant's heart and not wallow in our own needs and wants.

    Fasting/abstainment is the act of self-denial. It teaches us patience and trust in God. Some people choose chocolate, EtOH, swearing, etc. All Catholics are to abstain on Fridays. When doing so, we're supposed to remember Christ and what is asks us to do – deny ourselves and take up the cross of Christianity. We all know people who give up regular soda for diet soda, or start a diet. They do that for physical reasons. We do this for spiritual reasons.

    Almsgiving require us to live out what we're preached in the pews every day. Give. Give love, give work, give patience, give a listening ear. If someone goes on with a "it doesn't matter what car you drive, how much money you have, but how many people you help" spiel, this is what we're trying to do.

    For my family: 1. We're praying the rosary together every week and praying together as a family every night. We're listing our favorite thing of the day and one way we should have been "Christ" for someone and weren't. 2. I'm going to abstain from meat on Fridays completely and will not eat sweets. 3. We're selecting a charity of the week and donating to them.

    The thing is, we're supposed to do these things for God unabashedly, not to be considered good or pious people. The problem is that we all fail horribly at this. So every year we try to live it out for 40 days in hope that it will continue in our hearts year round. Regarding the unproductive posts against my faith, all I can say is that the intention of the church is to be Christ in the world. In every mass we say, "look not on our sins, but on the faith of your church." And this church is a shining example of Christ's love, marred by the sins of its people. Rather than slander, please pray (or hope if that's what you say you're doing) for us.


    March 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Tim Green

      Blah Blah Blah

      March 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Rick

      Excellent description of the reason we do what we do, as Catholic Christians.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Czar

      Excellent comment Alice... kudos...

      March 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  10. Jared

    This thread is hilarious. Why are argue whether God does or does not exist? It's probably the most futile debate, especially over the internet. It's called faith; either you have it or you don't. Now, concerning the actual question, I have considered Facebook or cheese. I love cheese.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  11. Hitchens

    Live and let live? Sure, as long as you go along with Christian, Red state tyrrany. I just want to be able to buy beer on Sunday.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  12. des

    maybe preists will give up little boys?.. just a suggestion

    March 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  13. steve

    i will be haveing just 1 meal a day leading up to good friday and then i will fast until easter day...the Lord Christ my savior has given me eternity through his blood...also he has healed my daughter from cancer and my grandson from his nightmares...i must glorify Jesus and sacrifise for him...Hail to the King

    March 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  14. sandiego1969

    As a practicing Catholic I am not supposed to be judgmental. However, given the state of our political discourse in America I have decided to give up on politicians. I will no longer listen to them trying not to answer simple question, I will no longer believe their rhetoric, I will no longer pray for their salvation, they're on their own. God help them, He's the only one who can.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  15. Linn Mar Alum

    I am giving up fast food, or any unhealthy food, lets call it a fresh food fast =) Thus, I will attempt to concentrate on my well-being by working out. This will help my mind, body, and soul so I can encourage others in a positive way. I have been slowly doing these things but lent is a perfect way to sacrafice my bad habbits and help others.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Gigi

      I'm with you. I'm sort of adding that to my "Lent List". Not so much to lose weight but I think if my body is healthier so will be my mind and spirit.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  16. Joseph

    For lent, I am giving up... Lent!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • A

      Hey, real clever.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Andrea M

      I did that last year, and it worked really well, so I decided to do it again this year.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  17. Lee

    I spent twelve years in Catholic parochial schools. We were often advised that it was better to do something positive in Lent as opposed to giving up something.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  18. Toronto Girl

    One has to believe to begin to understand what Lent is all about and how it impacts you as an individual. I choose to use Lent as a time to reflect and continue to do the best I can as a human being. giving up anything at all is your own personal choice and I don't think you are being forced to do so....
    Happy Ash Wednesday!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • dennis

      It is not what is done during this time of relgious activity, but what is done on a daily basis. Most I know that participate in lent are enbarrassing. It means nothing to them, so does nothing for them. Do the real deal. Get up everyday and allow Jesus to live through you. Then maybe this mockery of sacrifice could have some meaning of truth. haJd, pdh

      March 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • zipvip

      For Lent, I give up some of my girl friends.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  19. stacey

    I think its funny how some are condemning others for how they are choosing to acknowledge lent. Its a personal choice what to give up, if anything at all. Isn't it God's job to judge, not ours? I say kudos to anyone choosing to acknowledge what God and Jesus sacrificed for all of us.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Content

      Second that, Stacey! Nice choice of words.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  20. marsmotel

    All you religious people are so crazy! You believe in imaginary people! How and why? The Bible is not a history book, but a made up book to police people thousands of years ago. It does not work for this day and age. Tunnel visioned and weak-minded you are! Do you believe in Trolls and Goblins too?

    March 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • sandiego1969

      Of course I believe in trolls and goblins and I've seen them too. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are proof positive of what happens to a person when they choose to live under a bridge.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • marsmotel

      Good one! Ha!

      March 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Tab

      Hey guess what; it doesn't matter what they believe in. If it's true, it's true. If it's not, it doesn't really matter. Them believing in God isn't hurting anyone, so mind your own business.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Gigi

      I fail to understand why non-beleivers get so worked up about God, the Bible, Jesus, etc. If you don't believe, that is your choice. But why read a story about, say Lent, and then take all that time and energy to make a nasty response about something you don't believe in?

      March 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Bob

      Dont call God – when you are about to run over by a 18 wheeler truck.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Tab

      Haha nice one Bob! I agree with Gigi.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • noname

      The major people in the Bible (King David, Abraham, Jesus, Paul, John, Elijah, King Solomon, Judas, Peter) are historic figures and their existence has been proven, and you can figure that if the main characters are real then minor characters must also be real. To claim that the Bible is nothing more than stories made up to police people shows great ignorance and unwillingness to do your own research on the subject. Whether you believe in the teaching of the Bible or not is your choice, but don't claim that the Bible is fake when evidence shows the exact oposite.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.