Photo by Tyler Meuter

Every year, the 40-day observance of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which fell on Feb. 10 of this year. The religious celebration lasts from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday.

“Lent is a time we, as Christians, use to grow closer to God, to one another other, and to learn what it means to put faith before all earthly things,” said Amanda Bernardy, first-year CHBE. “We grow closer to each other through almsgiving, which is just a practice of giving more to those in need. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and culminates with the Easter celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. The celebration of Holy Communion began with the first Holy Week at the Last Supper in which Jesus presented himself as the Body and Blood.”

The origins in the observance of the holiday serve to symbolize Christ’s sacrifices — who fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before his crucifixion.

Churches across the globe hold services on Ash Wednesday, and those who have attended a mass or service can be seen sporting some kind of Ash on their foreheads meant to symbolize death and penance. The 40-day period ends on Easter Sunday, which falls on March 27 this year, when Christ is resurrected from the dead.

“I participate in Lent because I feel it is a beautiful time in the Church when I am really in sync with God’s world and my faith. Lent allows me to reflect not only on my faith, but who I am in this crazy world we live in,” Bernardy said. “Just as new life begins with spring, we begin a new life at Easter when Jesus is resurrected. Especially since I have come to college, Lent has taken on a new role of bringing me closer to God and prioritizing my values.”

Observers typically give up something of meaning to them during Lent. However, some observers also practice fasting during the time from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday.

In 2015, Washington Post compiled a list of the most popular things to give up for Lent online, which was then ranked by tweets. The top 10 included: school, chocolate, Twitter, swearing, alcohol, soda, social networking, sweets, fast food and homework.

“Lent is about reflecting on why we give things up. It’s great to master self-control but it’s even better to learn the value of making a sacrifice. Essentially, we make sacrifices for the things we love. By giving up something simple like chocolate or maybe something more difficult like alcohol, we are learning what it means to put our faith before earthly things,” Bernardy said.

Given that Lent is a time of reflection, those who participate often times hope to accomplish some level of self-exploration.

“Through this Lenten period, I personally hope to renew myself as a devout Catholic and practice expressing my faith on a daily basis,” Bernardy said. “I love my faith and I would much rather have God in my life than people who want to hold me back or change my values. I wish to share that compassion and renewal and strength with those around me so that we can all come closer to truth.”

Although generally associated to be a Catholic holiday, Lent is also celebrated by protestant denominations of Christianity.

“Whether you are Catholic, Christian, curious or careless, Lent is a great time to learn what faith really is,” Bernardy said. “If you have not been to Church in months or had a quality conversation about your values, you can use this time to find who you are. It’s also a great time to give back to the community around you.”