Practicing Lent as a Family

Melanie here from the What’s in the Bible? team! I don’t usually blog on these kinds of topics (mine are more along the lines of product updates and other such things), but I wanted to take the opportunity on this Ash Wednesday to ponder the practice of Lent … particularly, the practice of Lent in community and family.

I’m married, but no kiddos yet for me and my husband of 18 months. We are, however, going to practice Lent together for the first time this year. We’ve made a joint commitment to fast from meat for the next 40 days and we are excited to journey in the abstention together.

As we started to discuss it, I realized just how childlike my approach to Lent really is. My faith tradition growing up was not one that practiced Lent, and so this is really my first dive into fasting … and to fast for 40 days will be quite the challenge! We don’t eat meat a whole lot to begin with – 3 nights a week on average, at best – but it will still be difficult.

I’ve been scrambling around trying to find vegetarian replacements for some of our favorites, but it struck me that Lent really isn’t about that … it’s not about “replacing” one thing we love with substitutes for 40 days. It’s not about using Lent as an excuse to get rid of our bad habits either – giving up sweets for the sake of losing weight, for example, misses the point. What is the point, then? To sacrifice, to remind ourselves of God’s provision and grace in our own lives … and then to celebrate at the Sabbath table and on Easter Sunday in a way that reminds us of a time we have yet to know – when the new Kingdom has come and our days are all spent rejoicing and feasting with our King.

So I started researching both for my own sake and also for yours … how do you share Lent as a family? How do you explain it to your children – or in our case, many of our friends and family members? I am so anxious to start the journey that so many brothers and sisters in Christ have done in the past and will do together for the next several weeks, as we wait in anticipation to celebrate the death and resurrection of our Savior.

This is a great resources for families looking to engage more with the Church Year. It has a fantastic section on Lent, explaining it this way:

“Lent is a forty-day period before Easter when we prepare ourselves. During that time, we remember Christ and the change he made in the world, and we try to better ourselves as followers of Christ. Many people follow the custom of “giving up” something for Lent to remind them of Christ’s suffering.”

Lent started as a way to remember Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert. Many traditions interpret Lent in different ways – some say to only abstain on Fridays during the Lenten season, others say all 40 days. Some say you don’t have to abstain, but you can add a spiritual discipline or activity (prayer, worship, tithing, service to others) into your daily routine instead.

As you prepare for Lent as a family, what are some of your favorite traditions? How do you involve your children?

If you are like me and are new to Lent, here are some great family resources online for you to explore and some great activities to do as a family!

Resources from

Lenten Sacrifice Beans Activity

Hot Cross Buns History and Recipe

Legend of the Lent Pretzel and Recipe

You can follow Melanie on twitter @melanie_rainer. She blogs regularly at Grace for the Table.

Comment on a post

Thank you for this wonderful post! Thank you as well for including a Catholic link for resources. It makes me glad that all Christian faiths can be respected and acknowledged in our Christian walk :) -Catholic Mom

Denise M
Denise M

Melanie, what a lovely reflection on Lent. I think your childlike approach is going to be a blessing. I grew up Catholic and I am still Catholic. We have rich traditions that are tied to Lent. We don't have to do all. However, the Church calls us to a minimum of fasting (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) and abstaining (Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent, including Good Friday). Many of us do more. There are three legs to the stool of Lent, if you will: fasting, almsgiving and prayer. Fasting for the sake of fasting has no point to it, and as Isaiah says, is not pleasing to God. There has to be prayer and the intent on using it for a conversion of sorts. Some years the conversion is more fruitful than others. With our children, we talk to them about what they would like to give up or abstain from during Lent. Some years it is harder than others. My older children have come up with some interesting ones. One daughter gave up the comfort of her bed last year, she prayed for those who had no bed to call their own. One daughter gave up hot showers (this particular child LOVES long, hot showers). She prayed for those who don't have the luxury of a shower. We are implementing the no candy rule during the week. They are allowed to have a treat on Sundays as those days celebrate the Lord and are not included in the days of Lent. We donate the money that we save by not eating meat at the end of Lent. This year I am trying to do 40 Bags in 40 Days. It is a way of purging the household of stuff that gets in the way. These bags will have different destinations...donations, hand me downs to families who can use it and trash/recycle bin. We will be participating in this as a family. We are also praying with the 40 Days for Life group.