Growing up in my house, Easter was always a time to celebrate.
Ash Wednesday, Lent, First Fridays, Stations of the Cross, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.
Easter was about Jesus and the Easter Bunny.
It was about getting a new dress, shoes and a darling hat, finding our baskets, attending an extremely long mass and eating and a huge meal.
Easter was about family, a ham dinner and strawberry shortcake. It was gigantic for us kids and then… poof, it was gone.
As a parent, many of those same traditions were handed down to my children except we, as a family, went out to eat for Easter dinner. It never made sense to me to make a ham dinner for just the 4 of us. In my mind, Easter dinner was for 20 or more, not 4. And so, we began a new tradition, in the land of Colorado and it was just as lovely – though very different.
As a Catholic child, Lent was a time of year to ‘give up’ something. During the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, we were taught to give up or abstain from worldly pleasures. Now, worldly pleasures for a small kid in a big family is an ambiguous term. So we gave up something we cherished. Again, living in a home with limited treats, no desserts and no allowance, my worldly pleasures were already few. I remember one year I gave up chewing gum and candy and fighting with my siblings. Another time I gave up candy… not too difficult when there’s none in the house.
In my adult years, I’ve embraced Lent as my 6 week New Year’s Resolution. I can do anything for 6 weeks, can’t you?
During Lent, I find ways to improve things about me. Here’s my plan for this year:
Shrove Tuesday is also called Fat Tuesday (in French, Mardi=Tuesday; gras=fat, as in “pate de foie gras”, which is liver paste and very fatty), because on that day a thrifty housewife uses up the fats that she has kept around (the can of bacon drippings, or whatever) for cooking, but that she will not be using during Lent. Since pancakes are a standard way of using up fat, the day is also called Pancake Tuesday.
On Shrove Tuesday, many Christians make a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs they need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially need to ask God’s help in dealing with. Often they consult on these matters with a spiritual counselor, or receive shrift. (Read more at Shrove Tuesday)
Lent was always a time to ‘give up’ something. Or become a better person or attend mass… Now that I am no longer an active part of that religion, I continue to embrace Lent. It calls to me!
Now, it’s six weeks to focus on certain areas that matter to me. Reading more, walking more, eating certain foods, avoiding others. I know someone who is giving up swearing. Now, that’s a lofty goal!
Another wise family member intends to ride his bike everywhere he goes (wait… he has no car and lives in Florida… I need to have a conversation with him!