This is a guest post by Louisa Peterson from Delivery Hero Australia.
Growing up in a secular family in Sydney meant that Christmas was about presents and Easter was about chocolate eggs.
To be perfectly honest I’ve never really taken much of an interest in religion, but somehow this year I started wondering about Easter. What is Lent and why should I care about it? If you’re not a Christian, does this tradition make any sense?
Actually after doing a little bit of research, I think the answer is yes, it seems like we can all take something from Lent. As I’ve since discovered (thank you Wikipedia), Lent is a period of forty days of fasting before Easter. It’s a tradition primarily observed by Orthodox and Roman Catholics, and some Protestants.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. This year that means it finishes on 7th April – which makes it 46 days instead of the usual 40.
According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, the three traditional practises of Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards the self), and almsgiving (justice towards your neighbours).
If we take a contemporary look at these practises, we could interpret them as reflection, fasting (or giving up a particular vice) and giving something back to charity or to your community.
I guess for me, the important thing here is the point of reflection. There are other times like New Year’s Eve where we contemplate the previous year and make resolutions about what we want for the new one. So perhaps Lent is another way to help us reflect on who we are, our relationships, and what we’re doing in our lives. Often we’re so busy with family (especially if you’ve got kids) and work, that it’s difficult to find a spare minute to reflect on where we’re heading.
It makes sense to check in with ourselves from time to time to see how our plans are panning out. If you’re a hedonist (living in Sydney in summer makes it easy to fall into this trap!), then sometimes it’s good to take stock and for example, give up alcohol for one month – just for a change. Fasting could also take the form of giving up meat, chocolate, cigarettes, your favourite TV show, or consciously cutting down on your internet use. It’s about self-discipline – something as adults we often forget to practise because we can stay up as late as we want and get pizza delivery whenever we like!
If do you give up something like alcohol, cigarettes, coffee or chocolate, it’s a good opportunity to take note of how much money you spend on this ‘vice’. You might be pleasantly surprised (or possibly shocked) at how much money you save during this period of ‘fasting’.
Extrapolating from there, you could flip it 180 degrees and use those 40 days to do something you’ve been meaning to do for years. Tear yourself away from the internet for one hour a day, and start reading that book you never have time for. Sign up for a yoga class, learn Japanese, start jogging, swimming, crocheting, or do a Thai cooking course.
Once you’ve had some time for reflection, and decided to give something up and/or re-focus your energy, it’s time to address the third aspect of Lent: giving. This can take many forms, whether it’s your time, or a financial donation to a charity or cause. You could go through your wardrobe and take your old clothes down to Vinnies or the Salvos. Giving could also be volunteering at a soup kitchen, old peoples’ home or local YMCA. It could be cooking a meal for your friends who have a new baby – or babysitting; helping your neighbour’s kid with their maths homework; or mowing your Grandma’s lawn. It’s about looking around and seeing where you can give something back to your family, friends and neighbours, and your community.
Giving to those around us helps to take the focus off our own lives for a minute. Often today we’re so wrapped up in our own careers, families and day-to-day problems, that sometimes it’s good to broaden our perspective and remember that we are a part of a community.
While I stumbled across Lent a little late this year, I’ve decided to give up chocolate – as difficult as this temptation is, with all those chocolate bunnies on display! Actually it’s an important one right now! I’ve also been meaning to try Pilates, so I’ve signed up for a 10 week course, and I’ve offered to babysit my friend’s toddler for the next few Saturday nights so she and her husband can go on dates together.
What do you think? What would you give up for 40 days?
Louisa Peterson is from Delivery Hero home delivery solutions for Australians. Louisa is a food, travel and lifestyle blogger who is working on kicking her chocolate addiction. When she isn’t blogging about all things food-related, she still enjoys hitting the kitchen to try out new recipes, travelling and going to the beach.
[Mel’s P.S. This week I wrote a guest post for Yahoo7’s Moneyhound website on making your own Easter hampers on a budget, you can find it here. I hope you have a wonderful Easter holiday.]
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.