The long month of January is finally over and the shop shelves are stacked with chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs.
But before we reach Easter Sunday on March 27th this year, the six weeks of Lent must come first. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which falls this week on February 10th.
Two thousand odd years ago, Jesus spent forty days and forty nights fasting in the desert. Catholics remember this feat by doing something to help them prepare for the celebration of Easter.
Traditionally, people would go to an extra Mass each week or pray more often or simply try to be a better Christian.
It is also a time to be more charitable which we will soon be reminded of by the advertisement of Trócaire’s Lenten campaign.
In more recent times however, Lent is looked upon as a second chance at failed New Year’s resolution attempts. Many people “go off” something like alcohol, sweets or smoking for the period of Lent.
But is the true meaning of Lent being left behind? And is it even still observed in a nation where the Catholic Church no longer holds the reins?
Growing up, my siblings and I were always forced to go off our beloved treats for Lent. That meant no chocolate, no sweets, no fizzy drinks and no crisps for six weeks, which as a child seemed like a difficult task.
As we grew older, the choice was left to us about what, if anything, we would give up. Over the years, I have continued to make an attempt to do something for Lent.
It was only when I moved from the countryside to college in the city that I realised how few people my age do Lent. And many who do observe it just use it as an excuse to better themselves.
This year especially, as Easter is so early and Lent begins mid-February, some people will use it as a reason to take a second shot at their January resolutions.
Lent is supposed to be a time for fasting and preparation, not for dieting and detoxing.
Obviously there is no harm in trying to do something that will improve your health or fitness, but you probably shouldn’t use Lent as a label for your own personal gain. Lent is about preparing yourself for Easter by being a better Christian, not by bettering yourself.
Of course, there are still devout Catholics out there who follow and believe in the true meaning of Lent, but as many of our young people do not, it might just become a thing of the past.
If you do want to give it a go this year, make an extra effort to go to Mass, give some money to charity, visit an elderly neighbour or spend your free time doing voluntary work instead of watching Netflix.