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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. LEBFORCES

    Very Nice report. Thanks and God bless all Christians.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • blessings

      Thanks for not including me. I really appreciate that.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  2. Beth,Pleasant Gap, PA

    you aren't suppossed to discuss what you are giving up , besides, like a new years resolution, it tends not to stick, lent is a time to try to be the best person you can be and to give to others, nothing that shouldn't be done all year long, but for this brief period of time, try to make a real effort at it

    March 9, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • anthony

      ummm lent is a "tradition of man" and has no place in worship of God. besides christians are to strive to be the best person they can at ALL times. not just when a tradition is taking place.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  3. Donna

    I have changed my fb profile photo to a pic of Jesus on the cross.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  4. MJ

    I try to open myself up to what God really wants me to do on this short time on earth. To use my talents to help others. I will try my hardest not to shop online and to not buy things I feel I really don't need. For me, Lent is a time of reflection and giving thanks, for using only positive and kind words. It's a struggle at times, but well worth the effort at the end.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  5. Paul

    For those who do not believe in lent or God, fine. But do not try to plant negativity on those that do believe. Believing in only science as the reason for everything is a way to try to explain away God and to not be accountable for your actions.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  6. JB

    ...Cigarettes...yepp i said it.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  7. Monica

    I believe it has to do with sacrifice. DoING something difficult that still won't equal the sacrifice of Jesus death on the cross for our sins. But I also agree that it is about a cleansing of sorts to make ourselves more focussed on God and being a witness for Him.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  8. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    I'm giving up my freedom and liberty or at least believing that ever had any to begin with under our Plutocracy of a government.
    I want my right to live my private life without government intrusion as long as my life has no impact on the freedom of others.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  9. Mark

    My girlfriend and I decided to give up something for Lent and we both thought of things that would be difficult to let go. I am quitting video games and she is quitting chips and sweets. Sweets sounds like the harder, but she insists chips are her #1 vice haha. We've practiced Lent before and even if you aren't a believer, you'd be surprised how beneficial something like this can be. You can deny all you want about how something doesn't have a grip on you. Give up video games, sweets, caffeine, chips, alcohol, TV, or some regular leisure and you'll have an awakening to how much it really was controlling your daily schedule. It's just 40 days, I think everyone should try it once for their own mental health.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • speedro

      Good post. I love chips, too, by the way.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  10. An Irish Fellow

    I am giving up Christianity.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  11. KELLBELL

    I HAVE NEVER PARTICIPATED IN THE LENT RITUAL BUT I THINK THAT THIS IS AS GOOD A TIME AS ANY AND WAY PAST TIME TO BE HONEST. I AM GOING TO FOREGO CHOCOLATE AND EXPRESSING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS. WONDER WHICH ONE WILL BE HARDER???

    March 9, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  12. Ann C.

    Christianity.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  13. other christian

    Why this ignorance again.. "Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season when many Christians give something up in the weeks before Easter". Today is Ash Wednesday only Catholic Christians, other Christians have different traditions for the beginning of Lent, which for Orthodox Christians started this Monday....

    March 9, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • becky

      Catholics are NOT the only Christians who practice Lent. For instance Lutherans do as well. (ignorance: the state of being uninformed)

      March 9, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Fr Matthew

      Thank you for pointing this out!

      March 9, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Publius 13

      When you write "Catholics," I assume you are referring to the Roman Catholics. There are many other catholic traditions, including the Ukranian Catholics, the Anglican Catholics, and the Polish Catholics, just to name a few. But in any event, the observance of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday today, is not limited to the Roman Catholic tradition. Most of the western churches mark Lent beginning today, while most of the eastern churches began their observance on March 7. It is simply a matter of a different calendar (this year, both the eastern Easter and the western Easter are celebrated on the same Sunday). Observances of Lent vary with the different traditions. Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Roman Catholics, among others, will mark Ash Wednesday by attending services today, receiving ashes on their foreheads, and celebrating the Eucharist.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  14. NorCal

    The historical beginnings of lent came from the early church. At the time, the fish markets were struggling and as a service an outreach to them, the church told it's congregations to eat fish on Fridays. While the beginnings were outreach and financially based, many have used this season as a form of fasting to experience relying on Christ fully in their lives. A separation if you will from our earthly desires and the spiritual Bread of Life.

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

      That's a popular myth according to Jimmy Akin. The Latin word we translated as meat is carnis which, in Latin, refers to the flesh of warm blooded, land animals. If Jimmy is right, then the allowance of fish has nothing to do with the fishing industry.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  15. Reality

    After the latest Philadelphia Archdiocian "vomit-inducing" revelations about priestly ped-ophilia and coverups, I am giving up the RCC not only for Lent but permanently.

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

      wise decision. the bible speaks of a rotten tree producing rotten fruit and that is should be cut down and burned and a fine tree producing fine fruit. its pretty obvious that the RCC is the rotten tree in Jesus parable. God has nothing to do with the RCC. rather he will cut it down and burn it because if its rotten fruit.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • molly

      Really – Is it because what those sick priests did or because it's an easy out for lazy people like you!!!

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

      i highly doubt they are "lazy", rather they have a true interest in learning the bible and what God wants. obviously they have a good heart and can see past this disgusting organization.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Reality

      Actually the vomit-inducing revelations about priestly pedo-philia and cover-ups were the final nail in the coffin for Christianity in general:

      To wit

      Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan se-cts.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hit-ti-tes, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.
      earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

      For added "pizz-azz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "fil-icider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedo-ph-iliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      3. Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:

      Adu-lterous/pedophiliac preachers, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,
      :

      March 9, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • GooJobReality

      @Reality. You are so intelligent and so enlighten and just because you say so i am now claiming all you're saying as my new beliefs.

      March 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  16. Ann

    I was raised Catholic, but I gave it up for Lent.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  17. RinMaine

    Even though I love wine, I give up alcohol because I like to prove I still can go without. It is good for the diet and good for the brain. I have done that for twenty-plus years now.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  18. humbleman

    Mark of the beast in your right hand or forehead? cross with your right hand, ashes on your forehead? Idol Worship of human personification?

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

      hahaha i couldnt have said it better myself!

      March 9, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  19. Craig Lyman

    I give up finger bowls for lent always have always will

    March 9, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  20. Frogist

    I'm giving up my sanity and spending time with the in-laws... now that's a sacrifice!
    In some Eastern traditions, fasting and meditation is used to center yourself and clear your head. I don't see a difference here. The benefits of giving something up, and a lot of people have chosen to give up something unhealthy, can be rewarding. It can be a means to appreciate what you have more, or do away with a bad habit. I do think the idea of sacrifice could be extended to helping someone else out, like some posters mentioned. You know actually doing something helpful or kind for your fellowman. That would be a better expression of goodness in the world you live in than counting on your rosary or praying more IMO.
    BTW I have an honest question, I'm not a religious scholar, so can anyone enlighten me about the seeming coincidence of Passover and Easter? Is it always so closely related despite being based on two different occurrences? I'm reading up on it now, but any help would be most appreciated.

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

      Frogist,

      Ditto the in-law "sacrifice"!!!

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

      The crucifixion took place on the morning of the day that Passover began (in the evening).

      March 9, 2011 at 11:08 am |
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About this blog

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.