Easter may be a Christian holiday, but, like Christmas, many more non-Christians celebrate the holiday too. Now, as Easter Sunday approaches, many people want to know, "Why Easter is always on a different day"? and "what is Lent"?
To tell the truth, Easter is always on the same day. It's the "date" that's different. Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere. That date can occur any time between March 22 and April 25. Lent is the period of 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter.
Lent is a season of atonement for Christians. Technically, it is a 40-day period, but there are six Sundays in there that don't count toward the 40 days. During this period, it is common for people to pray, fast and engage in charitable activities. In a broader sense, it's a period for all to look more closely at themselves, consider their life's blessings, and to share their blessing with others. In that respect, we could all benefit from such a period of abstinence and self-sacrifice.
In this country, we have so much good fortune and abundance that many people tend to take it for granted. It's as if we just assume it will always be there and that other people in the world share equally in the good fortune. That's just not true, and that's why a six-week period of soul searching, self-sacrifice and almsgiving would benefit anyone, no matter what he or she believes. I challenge everyone to try it.
To start, take a closer look at yourself. Go to the website, www.livingto100.com. It's a questionnaire asking about you, your family and your lifestyle. At the end, you get a life expectancy rating and suggestions on how to improve you health to increase your longevity. After that, go to, www.bp.com, click on "environment and society", and click again on "Carbon Footprint Calculator". You answer questions to determine how much carbon you are adding to the atmosphere each year. You also get ideas on how to lower that number. While you're at it, why not consider a renewed effort at recycling?
During this period of self-sacrifice, many people try giving up something they know they'll miss. Every year, I give up alcohol. It doesn't sound like much, but think how many times you have wine with a meal, a beer with friends or an after work drink to "calm" your nerves. It is relatively easy, but it will make you think, and you will have to make decisions. I find the lesson transfers to other areas. I begin to notice and appreciate everything just a little bit more. Try it for one week, and you'll know what I mean.
Another Lent tradition worth trying is "almsgiving". That's just a fancy way of saying, "helping others". Volunteering is a good way to do that. The website www.volunteer.com has an enormous list of volunteer opportunities in a variety of areas both here and abroad. There are many places out there looking for help. If you don't want to go that far, almsgiving can be as simple as giving a smile, helping your mom with the groceries, or picking up your neighbors trashcans. It's the spirit of the deed that is as important as the size.
Easter and Lent may be Christian practices, but you don't need to be a Christian to join in and benefit. I guarantee anyone who practices self-sacrifice and charitable sharing for 40 days will experience a change. In the end, you may experience your own rebirth and Easter will definitely be a different day.