Ash Wednesday followed by St Valentine’s Day. An interesting juxtaposition! Suppose you’ve given up chocolate for Lent and your sweetheart sends you a wonderful box of the very best truffles and pralines? I guess you’d just have to put them away until Easter – how sad! Or you’ve given up alcohol, and your Valentine treats you to a champagne dinner?
The list could go on and on, and these are all theoretical scenarios in my case, as I haven’t had a Valentine for fifty years, so I could give up all kinds of things and not have to worry about speculative offerings. And I have the feeling that fewer and fewer people are giving up anything for Lent nowadays, so the quandary is probably in my imagination. Oh yes, I do know at least one woman who uses Lent as a pretext for a detox, but that isn’t really the purpose of this season.
It could be an opportunity to give those failed New Year’s resolutions another chance: Lent is about sacrifice and discipline, doing without something you know isn’t essential but which you enjoy or even crave. It should be slightly painful – if you are a saint and a martyr, you could choose something very painful, but let’s not get into masochism. I usually give up coffee, alcohol and cheese. Once it used to be sex, smoking and rock’n’roll – but those are temptations that rarely come my way nowadays! Ah, the joys of ageing!
A habit is formed or lost in 30 days, goes the saying. Lent lasts 40 days, so whatever bad habit you give up ought to be gone by Easter; strange, then, that I find myself repeatedly giving up the same things year after year. Still, it seems to have worked eventually with sex, smoking and rock’n’roll. Maybe with further ageing, I’ll lose my taste for wine, cheese and coffee? And then what will I have to relinquish? My Zimmer frame, hearing aids and glasses?