Last Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, the 40-day fasting period that leads up to Easter.
Fasting can take many forms. Muslims fast during the holy month of Ramadan by abstaining from all food and drink during daylight hours; Christians fast by abstaining from particular foodstuffs – definitely meat, sometimes other animal products such as dairy products and eggs. The rest of us may use Lent as the occasion for a detox of some sort, giving up wine or tobacco or chocolate.
There is a spiritual dimension to going without, but the Lenten fast was once also a grim reality in temperate Europe, coming at the end of winter when food stocks were exhausted and the first fruits of the new year were yet to ripen. Continue reading