As a Jewish Canadian who was forced by his mother to sing in an Anglican choir during his adolescent years, I can clearly recall feeling neglected when my Christian companions undertook their yearly 40-day long sacrifice leading up to Easter. I can even distinctly remember trying to give up Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish when I was roughly 12 years of age in a display of support for my chocolate-deprived friends.
Although I never actually made it the full 40 days, my sacrifice, or better yet, my understanding of the significance of my sacrifice, was greatly lacking. I was simply a lonely Jew seeking solidarity with my best friend Lucas, whose life had altered drastically in the absence of hockey collectible cards and Hot Wheels.
In an attempt to better grasp the contemplative nature of this religious period, I decided to explore the different ways in which students of the College are affected by the period of sacrifice.
“It’s about giving something up that you enjoy, not for the sake of giving it up, but rather for finding the good,” Vanessa Soetanto ’12 said. “For example, when I was younger there were certain things I did at the dinner table that made my parents angry. But on Lent, they would try their best to not get upset.”
While Soetanto’s views reinforce the idea that Lent is about obtaining a better understanding of the people in our lives and seeking out a higher good, many people approach the 40 days in very diverse ways.
“For me, Lent is about being self-conscious and aware of myself – it’s about getting rid of bad habits and cultivating new, positive ones,” said Tim LeClair ’11. “In the past, I have given up sugar and coffee.” This year LeClair elected to give up meat, which, he admits, has rendered him “a little hungry.”
In similar fashion, Ivette Stanziola ’12 decided to give up cheese with honey mustard dressing. “It might sound strange, but I eat that with pretty much all of my meals except breakfast,” Stanziola said. “Actually – maybe breakfast too.”
While the culinary combination may not seem all that palatable to the average eater, personal preference should be no reason to devalue her sacrifice. “It’s all about the giving up of something that satisfies you to a high level,” Stanziola said. “It might seem simple or strange, but as long as it makes you think about sacrifice.”
In perhaps the most shocking of the Lent resolutions that I encountered, I met a female student, remaining anonymous for obvious reasons, who was determined to abstain from seeing any boys during Lent. In a sex reversal of Josh Hartnett’s 2002 role in 40 Days and 40 Nights, the anonymous girl, too, said she “was struggling.”
Other Lent-adherents took the opportunity to set new resolutions for the future. “I’m trying to talk to family members more on the phone, stay in touch with my peeps,” Chris Valle ’12 said. “I also decided to give up desserts and Nintendo 64, so that maybe I can get some work done this semester.”
Lexy Coleman ’11, on the other hand, decided to take on a new resolution this year for Lent. “I gave up swearing for Lent because it’s not ladylike. I swear too much and it’s not becoming, on anyone. I’ve been trying to come up with funny alternatives. A personal favorite is Bob Saget for bulls—-.”
While Lent is commonly associated with Christianity, people of various beliefs participate in the 40-day tradition of sacrificing. Raven Hills ’12, a member of the Williams Secular Community, decided to observe Lent and give up coffee for 40 days to provide support for her churchgoing friends. As she said, “it totally isn’t a spiritual thing for me, I’m not religious at all. It’s about supporting my friends.”
While I no longer give up Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish in order to better integrate myself into my group of friends, I’m not sure if I understand substantially more about Lent now than I did when I was 12. The period still seems to revolve largely around sacrifice, but I’m finding that there exists a wide variety of different ways and degrees of seriousness with which people celebrate the period. I can’t help but be both intrigued and impressed by the wide array of different manifestations followers come up with to imitate Jesus’ 40 days of resisting temptation in the wilderness. Whether in the form of honey mustard, Hot Wheels or sexy male abs, as long as it does the trick, it’s all in the name of Lent.