Biscuits, booze and the reasons we quit for Lent

Published date: 07 March 2014 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


HAVE you given anything up for Lent?

Lots of people have, whether opting out of a Friday night tipple or forsworn snacks.

Lent began with Pancake Day on Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, so by now you should be feeling the pangs of self-denial if you’ve opted to take part.

The Lenten observance, stretching about six weeks until Easter, has its roots in Christianity, but in recent years many have started dropping the religious aspect.

The Leader asked readers what they were giving up, with some of the answers having very little to do with Godliness.

Keith Evans, 55, of Flint, joked he was “giving up drinking pints of salt water”, while Alan Williams, 56, of Connah’s Quay, was equally tongue-in-cheek when he said he wanted “to give up paying council tax”.

David Gregory, 28, of Wrexham, said: “I gave up on religion a long time ago.”

Sue Breese, 49, of Wrexham, who attends St Mark’s Church each week, takes Lent more seriously and is giving up sweets.

Geraldine Lever, 56, is giving up biscuits for religious reasons.

Shan Jenkins, a grandmother in her 40s from Wrexham, said: “I’m giving up bread. I hope I don’t starve because I eat loads of it.”

But others focused on the treat or temptation being set aside, rather than the religious nature of the time of year.

Julie Billingsley, 45, of Connah’s Quay, is going for Lent in a big way.

She said: “Lent? I reckon giving up alcohol and diet Coke could be an interesting challenge. It can’t be that difficult can it? Roll on April 18, why not add crisps and chocolate too? In for a penny.”

She said she was doing it for health purposes to hopefully lose weight.

Michelle Lloyd, 33, of Wrexham, is holding off on “crisps and chocolate”, but again not for religious reasons.

She said: “I just thought it would be a good excuse to give up some junk foods and lose a bit of weight maybe.”

Chelsey Leanne Ainsley, 20, of Wrexham, did not realise it was Ash Wednesday until her stepdaughter came home from school.

She said: “I wondered why Aisha had a cross on her head, l then remembered.

“The things you miss when you’re not in school.”

Increasingly, secular organisations are capitalising on Lent as well. In keeping with the ash theme, Filter, a Wales-based anti-smoking initiative, challenged residents to ‘give up for Lent’ in 2013.

The Leader is also guilty. Earlier this week, four staff members took part in a pancake relay in Mold town centre.

The participants flipped and sprinted and thoughts were more on keeping the pancakes in the air and out-racing opponents than on the old meaning of Shrove Tuesday, when the race took place.

Shrove originally meant ‘to confess’ and was a way of indulging in fatty foods (eggs, butter, milk) before giving them up for 40 days.

Dr Mandy Robbins, senior lecturer in Psychology at Glyndwr University, Wrexham, holds a PhD in Theology.

She said: “There’s a lot of people who give things up for Lent who won’t be

“There are probably people who have adopted the practice without considering the religious implications.

“What I find interesting is there is an increasing trend toward doing something rather than giving something up, like going out volunteering or helping someone else.

“That’s quite an interesting take on it.”

Mandy said it is clear Christians – and non-Christians who have simply adopted Lent as a challenge – aren’t the only people who give things up.

She said: “Fasting forms part of Ramadan for Muslims, but what’s interesting here is it is actually regarded as an enjoyable celebration, because everyone gets together after dark to share food.

“Lent, on the other hand, is more personal. It is about giving something you like up, and using that time to think about how lucky you are to have that thing when others may not, and perhaps spending some time in prayer.

“There’s a lot of research out there on the impacts of fasting, but there is not so much on Lent, although voluntarily giving up something you enjoy obviously has some psychological effect.”

There is, however, still a collective aspect to Lent. CAFOD (Catholic Aid For Overseas Development) is holding a simple soup supper on March 15 at St David’s in Mold.

Diocesan manager Katja Jewell said: “We are also putting together a Lenten calendar. The CAFOD office in Wrexham has also decided to go on a 40 day journey, exploring how we can live a more sustainable life style, in work, at home and in the parishes.

“We are inviting supporters to challenge us and suggest actions we could take.”
Others celebrate Lent the old way.

John Morris, 71, secretary of the Wrexham branch of international Christian voluntary organisation St Vincent De Paul Society, spent Wednesday with an ash mark on his forehead.

He said: “Like many church-goers, Catholic and otherwise, I’m taking on some sort of penance for Lent.

“I don’t think it is trivialising to give up something like chocolate for lent.

“If someone is a real chocolate addict then that will mean something to them. I will stop drinking spirits – although you can break the fast on a Sunday.”

Whether you are turning away from temptation to test your willpower or taking part in a religious tradition, we want to hear from you.

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