I’ve given up sweets, cakes and biscuits for Lent. Possibly a bad choice, and each year I get to about the halfway point and think that maybe next year I’ll give up something I don’t like as much.
But that’s not really the point. In fact, giving up things per se isn’t really the point. It’s more to do with doing some self-reflection and assessing your spiritual life, and doing something useful with the time or money that you save by giving things up.
I only found out a few weeks ago that the idea of giving up things for Lent is largely an Anglo-Catholic tradition. It’s not general practice in non-conformist churches – in fact, I’m not sure even that Lent is recognised as a season in all other denominations.
The season of Lent is a very sombre period. Here are some of the ways in which it may be marked – at least in the Anglican Church, which is where I have most of my experience. Not all churches will do all of these – a lot depends on local traditions.
- Social events are not held during Lent.
- Hymns and music are generally of a more sombre mood.
- “Alleluia” is not used.
- The Gloria is omitted from the Eucharist service.
- Figures of Christ and other religious symbols are covered up.
- Churches are not decorated with flowers.
- Church bells are not rung in the week before Easter – Holy Week. In fact, in my church, the bells are not rung until after the service on Easter Day.
Finally, can I let my inner-pedant out briefly to shout that the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday IS NOT EASTER SATURDAY. It is Holy Saturday. Easter Saturday is the Saturday of Easter week and so, like Easter Monday, falls AFTER EASTER.