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Posted at 11:03 AM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Lent 2011: What will you abstain from?

By Melissa Bell
lent 2011
Filipino students, employees, administrators and seminarians from the University of Santo Tomas gather to form a "Dominican Cross" as they observe the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. (Aaron Favila/AP)

Okay, I'll admit this outright: I'm not a Catholic. But I do love Catholic traditions. The incense wafting through the cathedrals, the pantheon of saints. It's a mysterious and beautiful religion. Of course, I'm not technically allowed to participate in any of its rituals without fearing the wrath of my Catholic friends. Although there is one I do surreptitiously: penance during Lent.

The 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter (the 40 days of Lent do not count the six Sundays) mark a time when worshipers forgo something to honor the sacrifice of Jesus during his 40 days in the desert.

Catholic or not, it's a good time to practice a little self-restraint. It's like a New Year's resolution in miniature. A whole year without chocolate seems impossible. Forty days? That's more practical (though not practical enough: during the last Lent I failed that within three days).

The practice has moved away from just sacrifice to starting up a new habit, such as charity work, or breaking an old habit, such as abstaining from the digital world.

This year, I'll be turning off my e-mail after work ends. I'll sacrifice my digital addiction in the hopes of recognizing the real world a little.

What are you giving up for Lent?

Tell us in the comments below or by using #40Days on Twitter.

Here are some of your responses:

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Update: From a reader: "I just want to point out that Lent is a Christian holiday, not exclusive to Catholics. Where I'm from, the German Protestants celebrate it too."

By Melissa Bell  | March 9, 2011; 11:03 AM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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Comments

I will abstain from persecuting or killing anyone because of some stories in a fictional 'holy book'. But then, I'm an atheist.

Posted by: godsatheist | March 9, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Lent is commemorated by other Christians, too, not just Catholics. Melissa, I hope you know that you should be welcomed in church--any church--and be able to participate fully in whatever rituals are important to you without the wrath of ANYONE because God wants to be in closer relationship with you and all people. Your "friends" could use a lesson in Christian hospitality.

Posted by: angelomer683 | March 9, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Accused of a liberal bent,
Today NPR will repent
Its ways prejudicial
With lambs sacrificial
By giving up Schiller for Lent.

News Short n' Sweet by JFD8
http://twitter.com/JFD8

Posted by: jd121 | March 9, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I will abstain from self-deprivation.

Posted by: lepidopteryx | March 9, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Lent is a penitential season throughout the Christian churches - not just the RC church. The key term is "repentance," which means, "to return and go a new way." Forty days was the time of preparation for one's baptism - also about the amount of time needed to change a habit or estabish a new one. "Going a new way" may mean trying out something new - trying on a new lifestyle, etc. Forty days suggests a "trying out" time - if you don't like it, you can always "repent" and go back again!

I'm going to try to give up hatred and narrow-mindedness, try to put on loving people a little more - even those whom I think are idiots and should be beaten with iron rods. I'm going to try to love my wife a bit more - maybe make her dinner for a change and do the dishes a bit more often for her. Instead of chocolate, I'll give up bitterness when I don't get my own way. Can I make it for forty days? Probably not - at least if I keep reading the paper and listening to the news. Maybe that's another thing I should give up for Lent.

Posted by: garoth | March 9, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

garoth - do the dishes for HER? Don't you eat from plates too?

Posted by: lepidopteryx | March 9, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm giving up drinking alcohol and eating between meals.

Posted by: bruce18 | March 9, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Nothing. What a crock... keep amusing yourselves with your self-supporting, self-aggrandizing racket that we call religion. That civilized people actually believe in this stuff always amazes me.

Good luck with that heaven thing by the way. I'm sure you'll meet up with the suicide bombers and their virgins...

Posted by: dug2008 | March 9, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I'm giving up the last vestiges of magical thinking and childish religious fantasies.

But I'm not planning on returning to those things in 40 days.

Posted by: karlmarx2 | March 9, 2011 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Superstitious religious beliefs. Forever.

Posted by: wireman65 | March 9, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm giving up "giving up things for Lent".

Posted by: mencik | March 9, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Not a thing

Posted by: erward1 | March 9, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

For 40 Days, no sweets, no peanut butter, no junk food; meatless days at least 2 days a week; for 40 days learn to appreciate and enjoy me - become more positive about future; for 40 days work on crafts consistently to become the norm, not the exception; for 40 days work on becoming organized and declutter; use this time to reflect and improve weak areas of life and stregthen the strong ones.

Posted by: goldenone49 | March 9, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

For 40 Days, no sweets, no peanut butter, no junk food; meatless days at least 2 days a week; for 40 days learn to appreciate and enjoy me - become more positive about future; for 40 days work on crafts consistently to become the norm, not the exception; for 40 days work on becoming organized and declutter; use this time to reflect and improve weak areas of life and stregthen the strong ones.

Posted by: goldenone49 | March 9, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm giving up the Washington Post.

Posted by: qball43 | March 9, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse


I am giving up praying for our elected politicans. I will give up the thought, that they are capable of saving our country. I will give up any faith I had left in our goverment I will realize for the 40 days and 40 nights. The devil will rule america. I will forgo my spirt of belief, that our country will be restored to its once strong belief that goverment works for the people.
I never thought anything could destroy america, well until the goverment in washington was put in place. I will not pray for them. Sometimes prayers are wasted and useless, like right now.

Posted by: davidtrottier2002 | March 9, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I am giving up being amazed and embarrassed by the actions of pedophile priests. I am giving up hope of ever seeing married clergy or a church that divests itself of the billions in riches it has stolen over the centuries in order to feed and clothe the poor.

Posted by: MoonDoggie | March 9, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

And what is Lent? Think about it ( I know one is not supposed to "think" when it comes to religion, original sin, etc.) but the only reason I can think of fasting, giving up, etc is to prepare oneself for the easter bunny and all those delicacies and all the good grunts at easter dinner. And you know the easter bunny is real because everyone says so.

Posted by: elwoll | March 9, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I gave up television for lent so now I'm checking washingtonpost.com because w/o watching the morning news, I don't know what's going on in the world!

Posted by: Renee5 | March 9, 2011 7:46 PM | Report abuse

I gave up television for lent so now I'm checking washingtonpost.com because w/o watching the morning news, I don't know what's going on in the world!

Posted by: Renee5 | March 9, 2011 7:47 PM | Report abuse

I gave up living in a free, progressive society to stay home in the United States.

I gave up living in a rational nation where citizens discuss growth, not rant and rave and threaten, demanding the right to cripple the society.

I gave up open and fair elections - remember Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 - where candidates don't use hate and fear, innuendo and lies to support disingenuous claims and promises.

I gave up clean air, clean water and a functioning media.

I gave up affordable health care and a stable government.

I gave up the American dream, done in by an angry misinformed, mislead, deluded, brainwashed mob who haven't a clue what they have done and continue to do to our once admired society.

Posted by: TaxTheRichNow | March 9, 2011 7:50 PM | Report abuse

This year for Lent, I am giving up watermelons.

Posted by: dweezil22 | March 9, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

This year for Lent, I am giving up watermelons.

Posted by: dweezil22 | March 9, 2011 8:07 PM | Report abuse

I used to work for Howrey. I'm giving up a paycheck.

Posted by: CatesMom | March 9, 2011 9:03 PM | Report abuse

TaxTheRich said: [Lots of unfortunate truisms.]

I completely support you. But will anyone notice you/us? They are too "busy" giving up texting and FB for 40 days of religious mockery.

Posted by: williamhuxtan | March 9, 2011 9:58 PM | Report abuse

And because it will just be fun to see them howl---I am giving up atheists!

(except my son who I love dearly and his father my husband who is really more of an agnostic than an atheist....but other than that.....LOL)

Posted by: mil1 | March 9, 2011 10:35 PM | Report abuse

I was pleased to see the post by angelomer683 which reiterates that the Roman Catholic Church does not define or speak for Christianity. There are other Christian Churches. It would be nice if the mainstream news media would acknowledge the existence other Christian Churches and cover religious events from their perspective.

A couple of years back the Roman Catholic Easter fell on a different day than the Orthodox Easter. Of course the Pope's visit to the Jerusalem was well covered by the media. When the Orthodox Easter arrived, near silence. I look forward to the Post initiating some equal coverage this year.

Considering the recent stories in Egypt where Coptic Christians are being persecuted and killed, recognition would be welcomed.

Posted by: SteveR1 | March 9, 2011 10:52 PM | Report abuse

I work for the federal government, I'm probably giving up my job for 40 days.

Posted by: madstamina | March 9, 2011 11:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm giving up giving things up for lent.

BTW, what's lent? (sarcasm)

Posted by: jwash4472 | March 10, 2011 7:39 AM | Report abuse

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