LENT is here and Christians all over the world are giving up one their vices for 40 days before Easter Sunday.
The period of abstinence started on Ash Wednesday, which has been observed by worshippers for hundreds of years, but what are the rules?
What is Lent?
The Lent fast is a Christian tradition, but many non-believers also take part.
On Ash Wednesday, people around the globe give up certain foods or habits to improve their health or demonstrate self-restraint.
They do it to pay tribute to Jesus and his sacrifices, suffering, life and death during his short time on Earth.
It also remembers the 40 days and nights Jesus fasted in the desert during what is now known as The Temptation of Christ.
It lasts for 40 days until Easter, but this is without Sundays being included in the amount (if they were counted it would be 46 days).
How to fast for Lent
To represent Jesus' time being taunted by the Devil in the desert for 40 days and nights, Christians give something up for 40 days.
This religious fast is a strict form of diet rather than abstaining from eating any food at all – which is what Jesus endured, according to the Bible.
The Sundays during Lent don't count — but that doesn't mean you can spend them eating a week's worth of crisps.
Six weeks isn't that long to go without something and the time frame is a small but fixed goal.
Being held accountable is a good way to keep you sticking to your guns, so do the challenge with someone else, or get people to keep checking you haven't caved.
Tick off the days you have achieved your goals to encourage you on how far you've come.
What are the rules on eating fish instead of meat?
You are not allowed to eat meat or poultry on Ash Wednesday or any Friday during Lent – but you can eat fish.
During Biblical times, fish and seafood was a cheap — or free — option, and not considered a luxury.
Many people give up meat for Lent as it's the total opposite — at least it was during Jesus' day.
By giving up delicious or luxury foods, they pay their respects to Jesus and can fully appreciate the horrors that he endured in the desert.
What is the Catholic law of abstinence?
The law of abstinence states that Catholics aged over 14 MUST fast during Lent – and not eat meat on Fridays.
Similarly, the law of fasting says any Catholic aged 18 to 60 must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
According to Catholic.org, the "Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity".
They add that there can be exceptions in certain circumstances: "Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual labourers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offence or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline."
When does Lent 2021 start and end?
This year, Lent started on February 17, which is also known as Ash Wednesday.
Lent is a 40-day fast and will run up until the Thursday before Easter Sunday, April 1, which is known as Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday – after this date those observing it could indulge once more!
Why is Lent for 40 days and what is its meaning?
The Lent period reflects when Jesus fasted and suffered in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, before he started his ministry.
According to the Bible, he was tempted by Satan during this time, but each time he managed to refuse his temptations.
People follow Jesus’ example and give up vices in a bid to grow closer to God as Easter approaches.
Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day occurs the day before Lent begins, symbolising when Christians would eat up foods such as milk and eggs before fasting.
Where does the tradition of fasting come from?
Lent and fasting go hand in hand for many in the Christian church.
Many followers abstain from certain food or temptations, following Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert in preparation for his public ministry.
Fasting has been practised for centuries within a number of religions and culture, and is featured within Jewish culture in the Old Testament.
For example, Queen Esther asked the Jewish nation to come together in prayer and fasting, and Christians often combine the two practices nowadays.
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