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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. marian

    I am going Vegan for Lent. It is kind of a double practice – giving up animal products and hopefully improving my health. I think it will be a challenge but is a good expression of commitment and care for the world around me.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Tina

      I think that is a great idea. Somehow being vegetarian or vegan for Easter seems right - it is after all a holiday that is about compassion, mercy and love. Very cool! I'll probably steal your idea! 😉

      March 9, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  2. Ulysses Rodriguez

    This year I am giving up soda, because I drink it too much.

    Also, its amazing how immature people are on here.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Scheer

      That's because they have no beliefs.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  3. SJ

    I'm giving up Lent.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Jessica

      I am giving up chocolate (which I like A LOT) for three reasons: It's bad for me and I eat way to much of it. The worlds supply of chocolate is running out and it's becoming harder to get because it's being farmed in less places. Also, most of our chocolate comes from child slave labor, which I just found out. So for 6 HARD weeks, I'm giving up chocolate and maybe I can give it up for good.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  4. WhoLou

    Guilt is a powerful emotion. It is apparently strong enough to override reasoning for more than 1500 years.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Forgiven

      Guilt is powerful because it was created by God to keep you accountable and aware of your sins.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      If anyone wants to give up money...I could use some.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • blondegeisha

      guilt is a useless emotion

      March 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  5. Cat MacLeod

    I'm going to give up worrying that there's billions of irrational people who talk to invisible men in the sky and just hope the basic decency and kindness of people wins out...before they try to burn me at the stake.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Dan

      The majority of religious people are good people, just like I assume the majority of non religious people are also.

      Grow up.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  6. Andy M

    I'm giving up my effort to have the Pope in prisoned for aiding and abeiting child molesters – but only for lent!

    March 9, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Atheist

      Good One.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  7. Deb

    You really think God cares if you give up facebook, desserts, beef, pork, ketchup, oatmeal, etc.........seriously?

    March 9, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Brett

      Great point Deb! I have never understood the 40 day thing. For us to be good disciples we must be willing to give up everything for Jesus, to follow him and love him as he loved us and not to brag about our accomplishments, which I fine as a fine line of people talking about what they are giving up.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • ajk68

      Fasting is not about pleasing God per se. It is about disciplining ourselves – breaking attachments to worthless things so that we may more completely attach ourselves to God.

      How many people think it is perfectly fine to give up food and work out strenuously at the gym just to look better. This can be a good thing. But there are more important things than looking good that are also worth giving up stuff and striving to be better. Lent is a workout for Christians.

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

      You can read why we fast by reading the Books of Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13 when Jesus was tempted by the devil as he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  8. richunix

    Explain it to me: What's Lent? And what are you giving up? : Nothing as I'm not a follower of the Nazarene.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  9. Red

    I'm giving up winning!

    March 9, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  10. Colin

    Nothing. I long ago abandoned the Dark Ages superst-itions based on the Bible. I stopped believing in god about the same time I stopped believing there were monsters under my house.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  11. logankstewart

    Wednesday March 9 – Friday March 18: Fruit & Vegetables only between 6am and 6pm as lunch and snacks; No carbonated beverages
    Saturday March 19 – Monday March 28: Fruit & Vegetables only b/w 6 & 6, skipping lunch; no carbonated drinks
    Tuesday March 29 – Thursday April 7: Fruit or Vegetable as breakfast, no lunch, no carbonated drinks, no snacks
    Friday April 8 – Sunday April 17: No food between 6am & 6pm, no carbonated drinks
    Monday April 18 – Saturday April 23: No food between 6am & 6pm, only juice and water as drinks

    March 9, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  12. DD

    NEVER EVER EVER Give Up!!

    March 9, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  13. DON63

    I'm givig up giving up things

    March 9, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  14. DropDeadGorgeous

    I'd like to point out that while all Christian denominations celebrate Lent (as much as one can "celebrate" Lent), not all of them follow the practice of giving something up for Lent. You can acknowledge Jesus' sacrifice for us in many ways, including prayer, community service, donating to a charity, or whatever feels right to you. Giving something up, to my knowledge, has been mostly a Catholic practice (along with not eating meat on Fridays during Lent), so please don't confuse Catholic practices with Christian practices, as there are many Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and others who practice the Christian faith without following the Catholic doctrine.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • JH

      Ummmm, nowhere in the Bible are we told to give up things for Lent. Can someone point me to Scripture for this behavior?

      March 9, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • jg

      not eating meat on friday? didn't they quit that nonsense?
      and didn't george carlin ask, how many are still in hell doing time on a meat rap?

      March 9, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • PeterVN

      If jesus was divine and immortal, and your god is omnipotent as claimed, then how is anything that happened to jesus a "sacrifice"?

      March 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • ajk68

      @PeterVN: Christianity has taught from the earliest times that Jesus is both God and man. He was able to sacrifice as a man. In fact, many of the early heresies were over just this issue – that Jesus wasn't both God and man. Please read some history and you will better understand what you attempt to question.

      @DropDeadGorgeous: Older Christian denominations (Catholics, Orthodox, Coptic, etc) all celebrate lent with prayer, fasting (aka giving up something), and almsgiving. It is primarily the protestant Christians that do not fast. Much of this has to do with how the protestants changed the notion of justification and salvation that had been held since earlier times.

      @JH: Older Christian denominations are not Bible-only Christians. The original notion of what was to be believed involved both Scripture and Tradition (from the Latin traditio or handing on). Early Christians recognized the authority of the Bishops to establish discipline.

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

      ajk68,
      Jesus clearly stated that he didn't know when nor the angels in Heaven but only The Father when he would return. In the garden, Jesus prayed to The Father. The Our Father clearly doesn't mention Jesus. Jesus calls himself, "the son of Man." Jesus also states that The Father was greater than he. So clearly, Jesus didn't see himself as anything but a man and divinity only became canon when Constantine forced the Nicene council, with Constantine a pagan. Your beliefs infuse Jesus as divine but scripturally, it isn't there.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • PeterVN

      @ajk68, no, my understanding of history is not really the issue. I'm well aware of the absurd claims of your myths. Perhaps you should think more deeply about the ramifications of "omnipotent".

      March 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      PeterVN, maybe you should read Ezekiel 18:1-5.

      Amen.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  15. Sarah

    I, too, am taking on something rather than giving up something. I am going to pray for all those who do not know the saving love, grace and mercy of God and for opportunities to share with them (in word and/or action) these blessings at work in my life.

    And when I do give up something tangible (alcohol and sweets), I take the money I would have spent on those items and donate it to charity.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • TK

      Too bad there is no God.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • HeavenSent

      TK, learn His truth written in Ezekiel 18:4.

      Amen.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      Heavensent then read Ezekiel 18 6 and tell me what you think about that one....twisted or what.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  16. Kristi

    I'm giving up swearing... I have a bad potty mouth so this is going to be very tough, but I think it is a very good thing to give up and get out of the habit of!

    March 9, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  17. a hit of chronic

    ashes to ashes, dust to dust, I got a girl with a 39 bust

    March 9, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Phil E. Drifter

      Nice! Nice handle, too! 😉

      March 9, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Carnal joke for carnal folks.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  18. common sense

    A Quaker explained it to me better than any priest. She is a nutritionist who often advised patients to give up something that was bad for them. Many never experienced this and could not do it. Catholics learn how to "give up," and throughout life, one is required to constantly give up freinds, loved ones, possessions, whatever. It is practice for life.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  19. thekeeper03

    im not giving anything up! we were put here on earth to enjoy the good things that life brings us, if its facebook,twitter,t.vs,radio,etc...let it be. unless anyone can show me proof that god wants us to give up something you all have fun giving up everything...we all have one life i really wish we could all just enjoy it, tired of churches and relig. groups telling us how to live. everyone enjoy life!!!!! you only have 1

    March 9, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • GirlyGirl

      For some people, giving up something IS kind of exhiliarating, a change of pace, a challenge. And how do you know we only have one life? Just because you've never been reincarnated doesn't mean you have to project that upon the rest of us. Go have a drink and stop being so angry!

      March 9, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Christian

      If you feel our purpose here is to enjoy the things the world has to offer, then by all means, don't lose a minute of enjoyment. However, I believe our purpose here is to learn to be more Christ-like. We do that by serving Him through serving others. His life here taught us many things about OUR purpose here. I don't think observing Lent will get me in Heaven no more that not observing it will keep me out. I am not Catholic. I go to a Christian Church where Lent is rarely mentioned. But God has blessed me over and over and I have asked so much of Him lately that this year I decided to sacrifice (which is what it is all about) a little more than usual. It's just a thing between me and God. No church or religeon is behind it. Just something I can do to show my appreciation for all He does.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • David

      Funny how all these non believers manage to come to a religious link and start posting things. If you don't believe then maybe you should seek a church that you like and try it on for size. All Churches have a little different flavor, as in keep looking. If you don't believe then you don't believe, but why would you come to this link just to state facts that are in direct conflict of almost everyone here? I'm sure you can find other places on the internet.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Kdavid3

      We were put on this earth to overcome our selfish human nature. As selfish humans we are sinners. To have eternal life in heaven, we have to overcome our selfish sinful nature and love one another. This is what Jesus teaches us.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  20. Robin

    DESSERTS!!!!

    March 9, 2011 at 10:33 am |
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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.