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. Sherry

    In response to the original question: What’s Lent? And what are you giving up? Lent is a time for a person to sacrifice something that is meaningful to them. Be it food, TV, eating out, and the list goes on. I chose to give up sweets. Not only does it make me pray every time I want something sweet I am making a sacrifice for my body. God made a major sacrifice for us years ago. We will never know how he felt giving up his Son, but we can know how it feels not to have something and have to turn and walk away from it. If it is only for 40 days!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • PeterVN

      Ah, yes, that omnipotent being making sacrifices again...maybe you want to give that concept some more thought.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • DavidMichael

      I challenge all those that give up something for Lent to donate the money saved to Charity, especially Soup Kitchens.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Chris

      So unlike us humans that don't need religion to get by.......you people have to have it so you don't do things you shouldn't? You people sound....kinda bad....

      March 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Hooser Catholic


      March 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  2. unknown

    Why do atheists even come to the belief section other than to vent misplaced anger?

    March 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Because the beliefs of others affect the atheist's life as well, through the laws that get passed. And how do you know that whatever anger is displayed is misplaced?

      March 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  3. Sheel

    I am going to give up cutting myself and eating dog food breathing in paint fumes for lent

    March 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  4. CM


    March 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  5. zach

    For lent, I will be giving up sacrifice.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  6. James

    It is a wonderful chance to renew our Christian Faith through prayer, fasting, and giving. Granted, these should go on all year and Lent let's us all re-focus. It's a great time of year

    March 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  7. Papo

    Why is it that the atheists come out of the woodwork when a religious topic comes up, when religion plays no part in their lives? Get a life. Atheists base their disbelief in God on the concept of the Abrahamic God. This is just ONE of many concepts and ideas on what God is. None of you know beyond any doubt that a higher being does not exist, because you do not know what a higher being truly is or what agenda, if any, it truly has. NO ONE REALLY *KNOWS*. For this reason, saying that there no God or higher being is as illogical as saying that one knows an understands God.

    As an aside, many atheists believe in extraterrestrials. Ironic?

    March 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "Atheists base their disbelief in God on the concept of the Abrahamic God."
      I don't know where you got this info, AFAIK, atheists base their disbelief on the lack of any evidence of the supernatural, including but not limited to any god, goddess, great spirit, faries, goblins, etc.

      "For this reason, saying that there no God or higher being is as illogical as saying that one knows an understands God."
      I don't know where you got this info, AFAIK, atheists would not say that "there is no God," but instead that there is no reason to believe in God. Subtly difference admittedly, but crucial in that atheist's are not making a claim that "there is no God," just that they don't have a belief in God.

      "many atheists believe in extraterrestrials"
      Again, where do you get your information? Atheists are usually rational scientifically minded people and would readily agree that there is no evidence of extraterrestrial life. However, they would probably say that based on what we know the probability of there being extraterrestrial life in the universe is high.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Claudia

      I agree with you "papo" and I would like to add some additional observations that I have also encountered about atheist... I always wonder why, if they oppose to religion– of any kind, why haven't they "boycotted" any religious Holidays that are still being observed through most US companies? Such as Christmas, Good Friday, etc.. And by boycott, I mean why don't they still show up to work since they don't believe in it anyway. Isn't it ironic that they only "speak up" negativily about God, to the point that now we have to be "politically correct" and most places don't even say "Merry Christmas" but "Happy Holidays" instead. I bet we'll never see the day when atheist will start going to work, on work "holidays"...

      March 9, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I wonder why believers come on Belief Blog and comment about atheists.

      That's silly, they're paid holidays. Why would someone work on a paid holiday, if they didn't have to? Do you boycott Memorial Day, Labor Day, or Independence Day since they are secular?

      March 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  8. what??

    i thought lent was a catholic thing....? not something that all christians practice..? i've been going to church all my life and the only people i know who practice lent are catholic.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Haemisch

      Protestants from the "High Church" traditions (e.g. Episcopalian) observe it too.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  9. Tina

    The question was, what are you giving up for Lent and why. I intend to give up candy as I have always done. I also intend to give up judging others. I know that will be much more difficult but it is something that will make me a better person. I will also spend more time in prayer and more money helping others.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  10. TX-LTDG

    I sort of like the twist my church put's on it. We are not asked to give anything up but to give more of ourselves.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  11. Someone who matters

    I'm giving up soda, candy and whatever other junk I normally eat. This is a first for me. I'm giving up myself to GOD as he has for all mankind. I have thought that maybe God is not, and have received blessings to think that maybe GOD is. However you want to look at it and however you live your life is up to you. There will be a time, now or later, today or tomorrow that you will need to call on him.

    So on that note…May you, your family and friends have a blessed day!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  12. Alex

    God must really hate chocolate and coffee. It's so hard to keep track of all the things god hates.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • musings

      Really? I just bought some fair trade coffee from Honduras at my church. They gave me the website, so that I could continue to contribute to the well-being of the campesinos there. I suppose buying and eating fair trade chocolate is like taking a sacrament of brotherhood as well.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  13. Alan

    "Oh you who believe, Fasting is enjoined upon you, as it was enjoined upon those before you, that you become God fearing. Fasting is for a fixed number of days, and if one of you be sick, or if one of you be on a journey, you will fast the same number of other days later on. For those who are capable of fasting (but still do not fast) there is a redemption: feeding a needy man for each day missed. Whoever, voluntarily, does more good than is required, will find it is better for him; and that you should fast is better for you, if you only know."

    March 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Haemisch

      The Qur'an has nothing to do with Lent.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  14. KMW

    "For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation with suffice." This is from the movie, The Song of Bernadette." and the man who was responsible for creating this was Jewish and wanted to give his thanks to God for being saved from the Nazis during the Holocaust.

    I hope you all have a wonderful Easter.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I'm hoping that he also thanked the Allied Forces for saving him.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  15. GetReal

    What a broad and heavy-handed simplification of Lent. It's about atonement – fasting, prayers, and alms-giving, not just "giving stuff up", like chocolate or booze. Lent is serious business. I'm not giving anything up, just trying to "atone", i.e. become "at one" with God and myself. Not a bad idea for anyone, whatever your belief system.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Jesusfreakazoid

      Yes, being "stoned" is the best way to be one with God.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Jesusfreakazoid

      Oh, you said "Atone". In that case I'll have to disagree.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  16. proudmary

    ....didn't jesus say its NOT what you put INTO your mouth but what comes OUT? all these people that give up types of food.....duh. plus why can't people just be ethical, good caring people all year long ? love these people that hang on to the crutches of organized religion and choose to label themselves 'christians' a few times year, what a joke.......

    March 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Haemisch

      What, pray tell, is your evidence that people who observe Lent are only CHristian a few days a year? So, you're the judge of their hearts and you know how often they pray or observe their faith? Please.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Rob

      Well put.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • David

      I would ask you what you mean by organized religion? If you are in your bible you would know that it clearly states that the people should come together and worship. Yes there are allot of different religions that fall under Christianity and they all have differences, but when it all comes down to it we are all Christians and all are in different parts of our walk in Christ.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  17. Scott-o

    Dear CNN,

    When I was in 4th grade the priest asked us to give up our favorite thing for Lent. Mine was the TV 'hit' show Batman (with Cesar Romero as "The Joker", Frank Gorshin as "The Riddler", Burgess Meridith as "The Penguin" (all superb), Julie Newmar as one of the Catwomen characters (zing! – Ertha Kitt was yowza!!!), Adam West as the man (he stunk the place up) and Burt Ward as Robin (a.k.a. 'Bat Boy'* – he stunk the place up too). At every commercial I asked my brother what was transpiring. After a week I couldn't take it anymore. I begged him to turn up the volume so I could at least hear it in my bedroom. After 10 minutes I couldn't take it anymore. I positioned the door of my bedroom so I could see the image of the TV in the reflection of the mirror on the back side of the door.

    Am I going to Hell?

    Is my brother going to Purgatory?



    * according to The Penguin.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • musings

      Growing children do not have to fast (although they had to abstain from meat on certain days). Perhaps the judgment is not considered formed enough for this kind of self-sacrifice either, especially when you've had a hard day at school and you need to hang out with your brother. Ego te absolvo.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  18. MRG

    Historically, Lenten disciplines have been just that: disciplines. Often misunderstood as Christian opposition to "worldly pleasures", Lent is not a ruling on the goods of this world, but a making of space for one's faith. Forgoing little delights and pleasures does build within the disciplined a desire for the forgone. As a response to this question, I'm actually not giving something up this year. I'm adding something. For too long, I have not built a time of prayer and reflection into my day; a daily Sabbath if you will. Healthy living (as supported by research) requires such pause and, in positioning myself to observe Lenten discipline, I am making space for my faith through addition.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Kimmad

      I like this so much, I am going to do this myself. Thanks for the idea!

      March 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • David

      I think you have the true meaning of Lent this year my friend..

      March 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  19. Hindu

    Every religion has the importance of giving up something for few days. It is just the way of testing one of your 5 senses.

    Mainly toungue. I guess people should give up talks.. there will be much peace in this whole world if we observe silence.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • webking

      II am totally agree.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  20. sleepytime

    I plan on giving up Christianity for lent.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Tommy

      Fortunately, God is not giving you up for Lent.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Al

      I gave up Christianity for LIFE. Free at last...

      March 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Deb

      Hilarious, I love it. I'm with you.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Emma


      March 9, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
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