With Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent, News Letter reporter Stephen Gamble took to the streets of Coleraine to find out what people are giving up for this Christian tradition and what motivates them to take on this challenge
Whether for religious reasons or otherwise, Lent is the perfect opportunity to cut things out of your life that you can live without.
Christians traditionally give up certain tasty foods or other bad habits over Lent, which leads up to Easter and this year begins on March 1 , to mark Jesus’s 40 days of fasting in the desert.
Downing Street has revealed that Prime Minister Theresa May will refrain from tucking into her favourite treat – crisps – for Lent.
Meanwhile, on the streets of Coleraine, Co Londonderry many people also revealed what they will be ditching and their reasons why.
Niall Quinn, 32, from Portstewart said he would be giving up “bread, sweets,crisps, chocolate, all that bad stuff”.
He added: “I do it mainly for religious reasons, but it is also a good way to cut out all the rubbish. Bread will definitely be the hardest thing to give up.”
Dungannon man Mickey Armstrong said he intends to stop eating certain “bad things”, but is not too optimistic about his chances of lasting 40 days.
He added: “I am just giving up stuff that is bad for me. I do it every year but it doesn’t normally last too long. We will see how it goes this time.”
Coleraine man Tony Eastwood said that while he doesn’t plan on cutting out anything, he is using Lent as an opportunity to improve himself as a person.
“I am not giving up anything for Lent. I am simply striving to make myself a better person and be better towards other people. I think that is more important than just giving up sweets or something like that,” he said.
Mother and daughter Rosemary and Laura McIntyre said that while they observe Lent every year, they have decided not to give up anything specific this time.
They added: “It is a lack of willpower that is the problem. Forty days is a long time to give up anything.
“It is like New Year’s resolutions, you start off with the best intentions but it often doesn’t last long.”
One Co Antrim pensioner told the News Letter: “I used be a lot stricter about Lent when I was younger but I find it harder now to give up comfort food such as biscuits.
“I gave up sugar in my tea for Lent years ago and I have never gone back. So at least one thing stuck.”
A Church of Ireland clergyman in Ballycastle said Lent is a time of reflection and denial for Christians.
Rev David Ferguson added: “Part of the tradition is to give something up for Lent, but that doesn’t always have to be the case.
“In fact, I have noticed more and more people are choosing not to do this. It is an entirely personal choice, but the main thing is that people seek to improve themselves as Christians and to improve their relationship with God.”
• I am back off alcohol again for six weeks
By Ben Lowry
Last year I observed Lent for the first time in my life.
I gave up alcohol for the six weeks.
I had been getting a bit too fond of wine, and was drinking it with most evening meals. I was straying over the weekly recommended alcohol intake for men.
Apart from anything else, such as liver damage, it was causing me to put on weight. My ability to enjoy a meal without wine was diminishing.
Also, I had never thought much about the Christian rituals, let alone observed them. I would probably have dismissed them as nonsense.
As I get older, however, I am increasingly interested in the Judeo-Christian culture into which hundreds of millions of us have been lucky enough to be born.
Going off wine for Lent was one of the best things I have done.
Now I find it much easier to go without alcohol. Since last Easter, I have tried to consume it no more than two days a week.
When I do have wine with a meal now, it is more of a treat than before and I savour it.
Observing Lent has also caused me to be more mindful of Easter, and its story. Previously, I was only interested in the fact that it was a holiday in my favourite season, spring.
I am back off wine again until mid April.