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40 Days of Lent

When I was growing up, my parents were devout members of the Lutheran

Church. I can remember how excited I was as a child to wear my prettiest dress and go to Sunday school where I would sing songs, color and play with my friends. The part I did not like about attending church was when I had to sit still and be quiet for a whole hour listening to the preacher, and getting pinched by my mother for fidgeting, talking or sleeping.

We also practiced the ritual of Lent in my household, and I can remember the huge fish fries and crawfish boils we would have every Friday night.

As I got older and a mind of my own, I did not attend church, nor did I participate in the ritualistic practices of Lent and all that it entailed. Being a young, headstrong adult, I thought it was so hypocritical that many adults would go out and get drunk, and maybe say and do vile cruel things to people all year long, and then the next day after Fat Tuesday, they would attend church for Ash Wednesday, and their antics for the entire year were forgotten and forgiven.

Later in my life, I attended many different churches, and I discovered that many Christian faith based churches practice Lent, not just Catholic and Lutheran. I went back to my Lutheran Church and got reacquainted with the practices of Lent.

In the short definition, Lent is the Christian tradition of spiritual preparation before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and in Louisiana it is the day after Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. During Lent, many Christians observe a period of fasting, repentance, moderation, self-denial and spiritual discipline. The purpose of the Lenten season is to set aside time for reflection, and to consider the sufferings of Jesus Christ, and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.

Lent is a season of 40 days, not counting Sundays, beginning on Ash

Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word

“lencten,” meaning “lengthen” and refers to the lengthening days of spring. The 40 days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Christians who observe Lent typically make a commitment to fast, or to give up something—a habit, like smoking, watching TV, swearing, or a food or drink, such as sweets, chocolate, alcohol or coffee. Some Christians also take on a Lenten discipline, like reading the Bible and spending more time in prayer to draw nearer to God.

Strict observers of Lent do not eat meat on Fridays, often opting for seafood, meatless or vegan meals instead. If you do participate in Lent, including the exclusion of meat on Fridays, please consider going out for breakfast, lunch and dinner to your favorite local restaurants that are offering a Lent menu. The shutdown has hit family owned restaurants hard, so they could really use your patronage.