Millions of people all over the world have enjoyed their Shrove Tuesday pancakes and have now embarked on Lent, where they choose things to give up for 40 days.
But there is a lot more to the religious celebration than ditching chocolate or other bad habits before Easter – so what exactly is Lent and what happens on Ash Wednesday?
What is Lent?
The Lent fast is a Christian tradition, but many non-believers also take part.
On Ash Wednesday, people over the globe give up certain foods or habits to improve their health or demonstrate self-restraint.
It lasts for 40 days until Easter, but this is without Sundays being included in the amount (if there were counted it would be 46 days).
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday is officially the start of Lent but its exact date changes each year depending upon when Easter falls.
To mark the day, clergy all over the world burn palm from the previous year’s Palm Sunday services to create ash.
This is then rubbed across people’s foreheads in the shape of the cross as they are reminded “For dust you are and to dust you shall return”.
The ceremony is meant to show followers that their lives are short and they must live them to the fullest.
This sees Lent begin and it continues until the Thursday before Easter weekend.
When did Lent 2017 start?
This year Lent is on March 1st which is also Ash Wednesday and the day after Shrove Tuesday.
The day of Lent changes every year in accordance to the lunar calendar, similar to Easter Sunday.
Lent is a 40-day fast, so will run up until the Thursday before Easter Sunday, April 13th, which is known as Holy Thursday.
Why is Lent for 40 Days & What is its Meaning?
The Lent period reflects when Jesus fasted and suffered in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, before he started his ministry.
According to the Bible, he was tempted by Satan during this time, but each time he managed to refuse his temptations.
People follow Jesus’ example and give up vices in a bid to grow closer to God as Easter approaches.
Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day occurs the day before Lent begins, symbolising when Christians would eat up foods such as milk and eggs before fasting.
5 Things to Give Up for Lent & How to Succeed
With Easter just around the corner, we’ve got a second chance after our New Year’s resolutions to kick those habits to the curb. Lent, which runs right up until Easter Sunday, is a time where people traditionally fight the cravings and give up something which has a negative effect on their lives.
We understand that giving up your vices isn’t always as easy as it seems. That’s why we’ve put together a list of both the usual culprits, as well as some unusual alternatives that you could give up for lent. There’s also some handy substitutes to help you to really follow through with it!
1. Reduce your Food Miles
If you’re interested in leading a greener lifestyle, reducing your food miles is a great alternative to the usual lent suspects. ‘Food miles’ is the term used to explain how far your food has had to travel from its original source to reach your plate.
Your meals today have probably travelled long distances involving lorries and aeroplanes, which all emit emissions, contributing to your carbon footprint.
There’s load of ways to reduce your food miles, and once you know how, it’s a simple and easy way to go green. Try and buy food which is produced or grown locally, or at least, as close as you can find. If you eat fruit and vegetables which are in season, they won’t have travelled as far. You can easily find out what’s in season online, so make a habit of checking up regularly!
You can also have fun shopping around at local farmer’s markets and farm shops, which have delicious, fresh, local produce which is probably from around the corner. And even better, why not use this as inspiration to start growing your own?
2. Ditching your Mobile Before Bed
Using your mobile phone or tablet before bed could be bad for you. Research into the topic has shown that being exposed to the light given off by phones, laptops, or other gadgets, can prevent us from sleeping.
Starting to use your phone less in the evening could be just what you need for a better night’s sleep over lent. If you find it hard to cut out technology altogether, a good way to minimise damage is to dim the display to the lowest setting, or switching to a good book at least 30 minutes before bed to calm your mind.
There’s even apps to help you take breaks from your phone, such as ‘Time Out’, which will help remind you when it’s time to switch that screen off for the night.
3. Using Your Car Less – Walk Instead
Adults of a working age in the UK spend an average of 9.5 hours a day sitting – which is quite a substantial amount of time to spend sedentary. This leads to unhealthy lifestyles, weight gain and many more problems later in life. So why not be more active and get moving over lent?
It’s hard to move more if you have an office job or work on a computer every day. But the one thing you can change is how you get there in the first place! If your work isn’t too far away, walking to work or investing in a bike to cycle will do wonders to your health.
Did you know, that by walking just 2.7 miles a day, you will have walked 1000 miles in a year? Instead of hopping in the car to pop to the shop – walk! You’ll be amazed how refreshed it makes you feel.
4. Give Up / Reduce Red Meat
Vegetarianism is a growing practice for the health conscious. It’s widely reported that eating too much red meat can be bad for us, raising our cholesterol and being chock full of harmful hormones which can increase our risk of some nasty diseases.
But giving up meat can be a difficult task, especially when most of us consider meat as a staple part of our diet. Just making the move to eating more ethically sourced white meats can make the world of difference to both you and the environment, and if you’re determined to go full veggie – there’s loads of tasty alternatives!
The classic meat alternative is tofu, which can be fried up with all sort of tasty herbs and spices. And there’s more – think mushrooms, eggplants, lentils, beans, and potatoes. You’ll be surprised at how tasty and varied vegetarian food can really be!
5. Ditch Those Cigarettes
2017 should be the year to finally kick the unhealthiest habit of them all. Not only does smoking seriously harm your health and severely increase your risk of several cancers, but it also affects your ability to taste. Smoking makes the taste buds on your tongue less sensitive – and who wants to be missing out on a world full of tasty food?
If you need some help along the way, making the first switch to an e-cigarette is a step in a much healthier direction. It’s widely reported as a key factor in smokers having success with quitting the habit.
The difference between e-cigarettes and normal cigarettes is the missing ingredient tobacco – a cancer causing, harmful component. They’re overall much less toxic and safer to use, so ditch those cigarettes and buy an e-cig for lent instead or even better a MONQ Essential Oil Diffuser.
Now you have no excuse not to ditch your bad habits for lent! Use our handy tips and tricks over lent to become a better, healthier or greener you.
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