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. Sybaris

    I'm giving up on sheeple who let ancient myths and legends dictate their behaviors and lifestyles.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • PAPilot


      March 9, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • speedro

      I would normally agree with you, but this one is kind of cool.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • nmc

      If you believe that Christianity is based on myths and legends, why bother to read the article and reply? Why not just ignore it? Or are you searching for a reason/opportunity to bash those who do believe so that somehow you feel better about your lack of faith? That's not good behavior in any religion or even just in polite society.

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

      Yes, because "Do unto others as you would have them do to unto you" is no longer acceptable in our society; it's more acceptable to tear people down and deride them for what they believe. I love how some people accuse "religious" people as intolerant when they, themselves, can't tolerate the religious. The door swings both ways.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Nick

      Catholic's are not "sheeple", we are every bit as intelligent and independent thinkers as yourself. I don't follow the church simply because I was told to, I follow it because I've experienced enough of it's Truth to believe in it. If you are not interested in Lent, Christianity, or religion in general, that's your prerogative. But to dismiss all Catholics as simple-minded followers is insultingly dismissive and a serious underestimation of humanity throughout the centuries.

      Writing off others beliefs without proper consideration is a closed-minded position.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Jeff

      You're an Idiot... Ohhh Look at me I'm going to attack people for having a faith and go after the establishment. Go play on the freeway.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Sybaris

      Why bother to read it and bash it?

      Because I can.
      Because it bothers you.
      Because I have a right to share my opinion.
      Because there is an appreciable amount of religious people who would try to silence me.
      Because there are people who aspire to hold public offices and inject their religious beliefs into the laws that govern the U.S..

      People came to this land to get away from theocracies but the GOP is looking more and more like creating a theocracy is their goal.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  2. Josh D, Chicago, Il

    Giving up the 'cause of and solution to all of life's problems.' No it's not women. I am giving up alcohol this year.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  3. mightyfudge

    I'm giving up believing in fairy tales.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  4. Soxfan

    I too am giving up soda. Had a dear friend, and priest who explained it very well many years ago. I like soda, a lot. So make a sacrifice and give it up for 6 weeks. When you feel a pang, and you really want a soda, then think of the sacrifice that Christ made for you, and dwell on the cavernous difference in what He did for you versus what you are doing for him. My friend then asked how much do you spend on sodas, and I replied, on average a dollar or two a day. OK, at the end of lent put $75.00 in the poor box, and think of the impact on the poor if millions of Catholics do what you are doing. It was a simple and wonderful lesson in how faith really works.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  5. Becky Obert

    Giving up something is a way to experience, in a very small way, the suffering that Jesus went thru. I think it keeps my mind focused on Jesus during Lent. This is a time when we are supposed to reflect on our mortality, and remember those who have died. It's a time for personal introspection and prayer, and the giving up something is only a small part of it.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  6. Bella

    I sincerely feel bad for some of you. While you can chose to worship/praise whomever or whatever why must you be so mad that we chose to put our faith into God? Believe what you will, but I am beyond thankful that I have something/someone to believe in.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  7. A reader

    The Catholic tradition also requires daily prayer and charity during Lent, in addition to fasting (giving up something). I would like to know what nonbelievers get out of defacing a *belief* blog with insults.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  8. Jon

    God Bless all Christians !

    March 9, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  9. dolly docker

    why would anyone want to put there trust in a god , list one thing that he has done for the benifit of humanity , for those who belive in an all knowing all seeing and omnipotent god you might get better results in believing in the tooth fairy ,god is a concept that has been used throught the history of man to explain the mystery and misery of mans existence , god is on life support if not dead , science and mathematics is the bedrock of reality ,not some silly childish notion that a guy in the sky controls our destiny

    March 9, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Publius 13

      Make God bless and keep you. May God make his Face to shine upon you, and give you Peace.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Kdavid3

      One thing....he gives us eternal life. That's pretty awesome. All you have to do is accept his offer by following Jesus' example.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  10. Chelsea A.

    I thought long and hard before the season of Lent about what was best for my health to give up in my life. I've given up eating out in restaurants. My brother-in-law's birthday celebration is this Saturday and I won't be attending because they are holding the dinner in a restaurant. Thankfully, there is a second celebration so I can attend. I'm not saying people need to cater to us Catholics who decide to give things up. There were already two parties planned, so I will attend one out of two.

    I am also giving up drinking alcohol. As an arthritis sufferer, it is detremental to my joints, not to mention my general health. I am sure someone will comment after this, but honestly, is the night you spend at a bar worth a sickening hangover in the morning, and hurting every inch of your body? Maybe you will say yes, but if I have a few drinks, every joint in my hands hurt.

    So for a long-winded response, that is why I'm giving up eating out in restaurants and alcohol; for my own health and well-being.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  11. Susan

    First I need to say that it puzzles me that people who have no faith come on this site just to make rude remarks. You are free to believe what you like, but please don't insult the rest of us who do have faith in God.

    Second, I think it's fine if people would like to give up something for Lent. But the thing to realize is that Jesus' death and resurrection paid the price for our sins. There's nothing we can do to earn it. It was a gift that was freely given and it's offered to all. If we could get to heaven by our own merit, then Jesus wouldn't have had to die for us. He did not only come to set an example of how we should live. He came to take our place, for our sins, so we could be reconciled to God.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • KMW


      Wonderful response and very intelligent. I agree with you 100%.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Dan

      If you just prayed in your homes or gathered in your church & that was it, I'd agree with you that the atheists should just stop complaining. You are free to delude your self in private.
      The problem is that religion impacts the non-religious through social policy, fiscal policy, civil liberties, war etc.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Kdavid3


      March 9, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  12. Lizi

    First of all Good Friday should be a federal holiday. 85% of Americans are Christians, and have the right to be off !

    March 9, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Dr. Strangelove

      Well heck, there goes separation of Church and State, right out the window along with a bunch of silly individual rights!

      March 9, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  13. chief

    im giving up lent.... its another catholic pagan ritual

    March 9, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Dr. Strangelove

      You mean it's another Pagan Ritual appropriated by the Catholic Church, the festival of the Goddess Aeostra, a Goddess of spring whose Sacred Symbols of fertility were the hare and the egg? That IS what you mean, right?

      March 9, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  14. Matt

    Good Friday should be federal holiday !

    March 9, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  15. Mark

    I'm Giving up Facebook. It's a lot of wasted time that could be spent with something more positive. I am going to start writing actuall letters (remember those?) to friends. When was the last time you got something in your mailbox from someone who cared about you?

    March 9, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  16. sarajeanne

    I am not Catholic and wasn't raised in any particular religion, however Easter was big in my family through out my life. Not because of the religious aspect, but rather because it was spring and family members who couldn't make it for Christmas or Thanksgiving because of treatcherous conditions always made it for Easter. I think because of my special memories of Easter it was easy for me to adapt to the philosophy of Lent. My roommate in college was Catholic, and in supporting her through this time, I have made it a part of my life for the last 12 years. For me, it is a time to give up an exess or a negative aspect of myself and make a commitment to be a better person. This year I am giving up negativity. Although I am not unrealistic in thinking that I will not have a negative though, but I will consciously choose to not act upon them, but rather thing and turn the negative thought into a positive one and that will be what I act upon. Every year, 40 days of practicing has helped me with making a habit, although some I have not wanted to keep (I gave up sweets one year! That could not continue!)

    March 9, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Fish

      What a great philosophy! Give up negativity... I think there are a lot of people on CNN blogs that could stand to follow your example! And @Joanne, another excellent point not to give up anything, but to just GIVE!

      March 9, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  17. Nick

    I'm giving up meat(including fish) for the entirety of lent. To the non-believers, you will never understand why Christians do the things they do until you experience God's grace. I hope that one day you will understand why we would give something up out of respect and piety. It doesn't make rational sense that a person would willingly make themselves a subject of an almighty being that you can't see. If you experience salvation it will make sense.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  18. Scott

    I've decided to give up alcohol because it will take my spiritual journey to the next step.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  19. RBP

    Lent isn't a time to give something up like facebook or sweets...it's not a new years resolution...yet so many people in the Church and the general public see it as that. Jesus fast in the desert in order to meditate and be closer with God. Lent is meant for us to do something that strengthens us spiritually. We give up facebook in order to spend that time in prayer...we finally read the bible for the next couple of weeks instead of not....we wake up earlier to meditate....we don't allow ourselves to be short tempered and instead forgive...although things like giving up sweets takes discipline...too often these things are done for ourselves to feel good about no sweets...when instead it should be something that makes us stop, think and reflect on our own relationship with our faith-self....just an opinion...

    March 9, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • rosieluv

      with your permission, may i repost this to my friends on FB. YES, your comment was THAT awesome! well said!

      March 9, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  20. JR

    It is not surprising that so many people come onto this site to criticize. If you don't believe in God then why do you even bother dealing with this article? Just to spread hate? Aren't you exhausted by your own negativity? Hopefully you can find happiness somewhere.

    Many religions fast during different holidays. I am going to fast today and on Fridays as is consistent with many Catholics and I am going to try praying more often. What am I giving up? I'm going to try to give up saying the phrase "dbag".

    The point of giving something up for lent is the idea of fasting with Jesus during his 40 days in the desert. During this time, the Catholic liturgy also changes to adopt a more somber tone. Then at the end of lent, we rejoice on the day that Jesus rises from the dead.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • KMW


      This is a wonderful response and intelligently presented. I hope you have a blessed Ash Wednesday and Happy Easter to you and your family.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:58 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.