For many people, Lent begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday. For me, however, Lent began yesterday. Why is this? I am Byzantine (Eastern Rite) as opposed to Roman (Latin Rite) catholic. Some of our traditions and customs are a bit different.
One big difference on the first day of Lent is our abstinence policy. Whereas in Roman rites people abstain from meat and poultry, in Eastern rites we also add dairy products to the list of things that cannot be eaten on the first day of Lent. Although I am of an age (don’t you just love the term ‘of an age’?) where I no longer have to abstain I still feel as if it is one small thing I can still do.
Lent is a big thing in the Eastern rite churches. The weeks leading up to the beginning of Lent are just as important and have their own significance. Two weeks ago, January 31, was meat fare Sunday. Traditionally this was the day families ate up all of the meat in the house since meat was not eaten during Lent. This made sense when you realize that many years ago people didn’t have refrigerators and freezers to store meat in to keep it from spoiling.
This Sunday, February 7, was cheese fare Sunday. On this day the houses were cleared of all cheese products since cheese was not eaten during Lent. I will say that I do not follow these practices. I do abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent and add dairy products to the list on the first day of Lent and on Good Friday.
Although Kathy is Roman catholic, she has adopted this tradition as well so it really makes it easy for me to follow.
Although Lent for us is still 40 days, the week before Pascha (Easter) is considered Holy Week and not part of Lent. Maybe more about that in a future post.