Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, was yesterday, so that would make today Ash Wednesday or the beginning of Lent. For the ones that don't know the significance of Mardi Gras, allow me to educate you very loosely. Mardi Gras is basically the day before Ash Wednesday were you can eat all the fatty foods you want, before the fasting period occurs. Some take this a step further and define it as the day to get all the sinning out your system, before you have to abstain for 40 Days during Lent. In Europe it is known as Shrove Tuesday. Shrove means " To confess". Mardi Gras, which is associated with the carnival celebrations, is celebrated throughout the world because of it's religious ties. Some even start celebrating as early as right after Thanksgiving!
Ash Wednesday is the day following Mardi Gras and starts the Lenten season. Lent is basically the 40 days before Easter and is culminated by Holy Week, which consists of Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter. Traditionally, Lent requires additional prayer or Bible reading, fasting and giving to neighbors. Most now usually give up a certain habit or luxury, which actually is very effective because takes about 21-30 days to give up most habits and Lent is the perfect time to do so.
As for me, I'm not a very religious person, yet I observe Lent each year. It's my way to kick a bad habit or try to give up something that might not be so great for me. In past Lenten seasons I've given up soft drinks, sex, cussing, drinking, and red meat last year. I was semi successful in most of them. Last year I was the most disciplined that I've ever been. I normally would attend an Ash Wednesday service at a random church, they don't deny anyone, and then start my Lent. This year I won't be breaking that habit.
What I'm giving up
After much thought and debate, I've come up with a few things that I plan to give up for Lent. Firstly, I'm going to read more. I'm not sure what I will read, but I want to read more and detach a little more from TV. Secondly, I plan to give up red meat again as well as drink more water. Lastly, I plan to volunteer 2 hours per week to helping someone else. Be that taking free pictures or handing out food to the homeless. I just want to volunteer. I honestly, don't see this as giving up anything, but making myself a better more well rounded person.
What about you? Do you practice Lent? If so, what do you plan on giving up? Drop a comment and let's talk about it! I love hearing from my readers. Have you been successful in past Lenten seasons? Were you able to quit what was given up entirely or did you go back to doing it after?
Here is a slideshow of some images from Mardi Gras in Memphis.