What’s that thing on your forehead? (And other memories of Lenten seasons past)

So, it’s that time of year again- when Cathiolics and masochists alike make the solemn vow to give up one of life’s few little pleasures for 40 days and 40 nights.

Me? I think I’ll give up raw vegan pizza this year.

What?? too easy?

Well I guess I’m at a loss, then. I considered giving up wine for a hot minute… buut then I remembered I hate reality too much for that. So then I thought maybe I’d give up eating cereal.. only, two problems:

  1. I might starve to death; and
  2. I already ate it this morning- and last time I checked, we catholics aren’t big on the whole “forgiveness” thing.

I guess I’ll figure something out. In the meantime- I’ve been spending my morning reminiscing about lenten seasons past…… 

Cue the flashback scene.....

Growing up Catholic, lent was a pretty big deal… and although I can look back fondly on it now, it wasn’t always what you would call a “pleasant” experience at the time.

Sure- things started out great with Shrove Tuesday and all (Pancakes for dinner? Yes please!), but after that, it sort of  went downhill from there.  First, there was Ash Wednesday to contend with.

Every year, my mom would pick my brothers and I up from school at lunch time and cart us to the noon-hour mass at our church, where we’d begrudgingly wait in line for the priest to apply ashes in the shape of a cross on our foreheads.

image via wikipedia

Since washing it  off was a crime punishable by death (or so we thought), we were forced to return to school afterwards, still sporting the ashes emblazoned on our foreheads like the Scarlet Letter. The worst part was that  it never actually looked like a cross, either. I’m not sure if it was sheer laziness, exhaustion, or the sausage-like fingers our priest was unfortunately born with, but it always ended up looking more like a nondescript blob than anything. No matter how hard you tried not to, you’d always touch it, too- and end up with ashes smudged all over your hands and face, like a schmuck. 

I remember once  examining my ashes in the bathroom mirror at school, thinking they bore an uncanny resemblance to Slimer from Ghostbusters:

At least there were cool points in that.

One year in high school, desperate to get out of this socially-destructive practice, I discovered on the internet that Ash Wednesday wasn’t actually a  “Holy Day of Obligation”  . Convinced this was  my ticket to freedom, I approached my mother with this new information. Unfortunately, I underestimated both her intellect, and religious zealousness (and the fact that catholics don’t have quite the penchant for semantics that I do). So off to church I went.  

After Ash Wednesday came the whole choosing what to “give up” part. My mom always had final say on this one. I remember on a few occasions, thinking I could pull a fast one on her by trying to give up things I didn’t even like, and constructing what I considered to be foolproof arguments: “You know what mom? This year, I think I’m gonna give up carrots. I mean- I know my eyesight will suffer for it…. but what is that to the pain Jesus felt while dying on the cross for our sins ??”

Once again she was too clever for me though- and instead would usually force us to give up all treats of any kind.

Now when you’re a mildly overweight/highly overindulged 8-year-old, this is basically your own personal version of hell.  No twinkes? No doritos? No peanut-butter stuffed Chips Ahoy Sandwiches?? But what will I eat for my after-school snack????  

Luckily for me, my family subscribed to the lax doctrine held by some Catholics that you get a temporary reprieve from your Lenten promises on Sundays.

Every Sunday after Church, my mom or dad would take us to the  store and let us pick out “a few” treats to be enjoyed that day. Now- the definition of “a few” varied wildly depending on if it were Mom or Dad at the helm of this expedition. If Mom was herding us- we’re talking 1-2 treats each, MAX. Dad on the other hand, usually became distracted by the Sunday paper, and paid no attention to what we piled onto the counter, simply handing over cash at the end of the transaction.

These were the days we lived for. We’d go home, pour our loot out all over the basement floor, and proceed to engage in a 12-hour sugar bender. I specifically remember one Sunday, watching The Wizard of Oz on VHS, and being so hopped up on sugar that I spun around the room screaming “A TWISTA!!!!!! A TWISTA!!!!” for a good half an hour, before having to run to the bathroom and throw up.

Good times.

Somehow, despite public embarrassment, binge eating, and sugar deprivation, we always made it through, though… and for our efforts, were rewarded each Easter Sunday with a basket of God’s greatest gift to the universe: CHOCOLATE. And sidewalk chalk.   Can’t forget about the sidewalk chalk.

Awww yeaaaaah

Question of the Day: What are YOU giving up for lent?

P.S. a HUGE thank you to everyone who read, liked and commented on my post “The Vegetarian’s Dilemma” which was Freshly Pressed yesterday- I’m doing my best to respond and pay visits to all of you! Special thanks goes out to all of my new followers- I hope you know what you’ve signed yourselves up for! muhahaha 😉  xo, Breezyk


29 thoughts on “What’s that thing on your forehead? (And other memories of Lenten seasons past)

Add yours

  1. Wow. Congrats! I didn’t know you were Freshly Pressed as I hardly ever check that page. I really enjoy your humorous writing.

    As for Lent, I don’t practice any more so in essence, I’ve given up Lent for Lent. The behavior of the church and those running it has turned me off and I believe in God in my own way now.

    I no longer go to church and avoid, if at all possible, extremely religious people as they seem to be extremely judgmental and self-righteous.


    1. Thanks a lot- I’m glad someone does! haha. I tried giving up “lent for lent” a few years ago- but when I told my mother she was none too pleased haha. I don’t go to church very often anymore either- but I still have some of these lingering catholic hangovers… it’s always good for something to write about I guess 🙂


      1. I had a little pang of guilt as I realized that I had given up lent for lent, but when I think of all the atrocities committed by the church I realized I had nothing to feel guilty about.


  2. Hey, congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Really enjoying your blog and particularly this post just popping up in my inbox about 30 seconds after some Catholic-guilt wallowing with my housemate (not an ash to be seen around here today…we’re ashamed…kind of). Haven’t attended Sunday Mass in months and yet staying off the meat and treats today…pretty much the definition of a lapsed Catholic I guess! Haven’t figured out what I’ll be giving up yet or even whether I’ll be doing it at all…hmm…
    1) Lenten reprieve on Sundays??! You lucky duck! We only got away with it on St. Patrick’s Day, and even then it was cheating, really.
    2) Ash Wednesday isn’t a holy day of obligation? My mind is officially blown (and guilt mildly reduced).


    1. Love it! Your post was hilarious- especially the attempting to give up contact lenses. You should do that one again this yr.. who needs them when hipster glasses are sooo hot right now?


  3. I stopped giving things up for Lent. It’s just kinda… Pointless. I decided to take on things. That is, start new GOOD habits… Or something. E.g. I read the Purpose Driven Life (perfect, with its 40 sections). Drink more water. Daily exercise. 15 minutes of solitude/meditation. Why not do something that you can GAIN/GROW from? Giving up chocolate chip cookies for 40 days? Kinda stupid. To me, anyway. That could be huge for someone. I just don’t get the point of giving something up just to go back to it on Easter morning. *Shrugs*


  4. Wow, all these years I’ve missed out on pancakes for dinner on Shrove Tuesday! I guess I could retroactively say I given up pancakes for dinner on Shrove Tuesday this year, but that would probably be a technical violation, not to mention it occurred before Lent.

    I suppose I will once again give up donuts. I like donuts, donuts like me and donuts are the one thing that, when I see them during Lent, I remember I’m not supposed to have.

    Not much originality, as I’ve been giving them up for Lent for somewhere between 10 and 15 years, but I guess it gets the job done.


    1. my sister and I were actually discussing what our favourite kind of donuts were this weekend. She likes vanilla dip (with the sprinkles)… I like Old-fashioned glaze. What’s your poison? (and sorry if this conversation is completely killing you right now because you can’t have any… haha)


  5. Congrats again on your FP post! As a left-handed almost-vegan myself, I can totally relate.

    I grew up in a super Catholic family and always had to give something up for Lent. Many years, it was candy. One year, it was Old Dutch Mesquite BBQ chips. One particularly terrible year, we were forced to give up watching the animated New Kids on the Block series. It was pure torture for this 9 or 10 year old! (No cartoon Jordan Knight for 6 whole weeks? What were my parents THINKING?)

    It’s been a while since I’ve given anything up for Lent. The non-smoker in me has decided to give up cigarettes, but I should probably buck up and pick something “real” to go without for the next 6 weeks.


    1. hahahaha that’s amazing I love that you had to give up NKOTB… did you catch the reunion tour last year to make up for it? 😉
      And go for the cigarettes- I promise I won’t tell anyone…


  6. So far this is what my kids are giving up…

    cracking knuckles – my daughter
    pasta – my son who hates spaghetti
    cheese – my other son who wanted a bike from Santa that said “Cheese” on it.
    Xbox (most days)- all three

    Congrats on the Freshly Pressed…totally missed it! Going over now to check it out.


  7. We give up meat, dairy, olive oil, and wine! But it’s most important to fast from vices and increase prayer and almsgiving….as someone else mentioned, it’s important to focus on what you can do, not what you give up 🙂


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