This week--Lent begins!  On Wednesday, Ash Wednesday it starts. For several days now I've been making preparations for this season of Lent. Simply put, Lent is a season within the Christian year in which focus on prayer, repentance, fasting, self-denial, cultivating gratitude, simple living, alms-giving and service seek to bring us closer to God. It begins with Ash Wednesday, when the reception of an ash cross smudged on our foreheads (traditionally a symbol of mortality & repentance) at church helps us to recognize our own mortality, repent our wrongs, and vow to make a return to God. For the next 40 days we re-commit to  honoring our precious life, changing our lives, re-calibrating our hearts to God and living more like Jesus. It's a great time for recharging our spiritual batteries. :) (That's my shelf-altar with purple cloth and candle ready for Lent.)

But first, some festivity!  Tomorrow is Fastnacht Day. Where I'm from in Pennsylvania in the USA--York County, with it's rich German heritage--Fastnacht Day is the day before Ash Wednesday, meaning literally "Fast Night", in which traditionally the best foods were eaten up before the more slim diet of Lent began. (The day goes by many other names, depending on place/culture--Pancake Day, Mardi Gras, etc.) Fastnachts are a type of doughnuts (not to be confused with donuts... though many people eat donuts on the day!). You can now buy donuts in many supermarkets here. I don't usually care for them much, as they don't really seem like donuts from back home. And I've never actually made doughnuts or donuts myself... In recent years though, I've been making cinnamon rolls for the day. Plenty of butter and sugar in these to qualify for festivity before fasting and self-denial! ;)

Lent is a time when food comes into focus in a great way! In the Catholic faith tradition, we fast on certain days during Lent. And Fridays are given over to fish or meat-free meals. I prepare a lot of meat-free soups during Lent. Here I've prepared Fish Soup and a Tomato-Bouillon--lots for the freezer for the six Lenten weeks to come! An emphasis on simple meals is encouraged during the 40 days of this season. Simple meals is a small form of self-denial, a way of introducing a heart-felt solidarity for those who have less than ourselves. Fridays are a focal point, as it was the day Jesus gave Himself for us--totally, selflessly. You can find more info on Catholic Lent practices here, if you'd like to read more.  For the past couple of years I've been "practicing" Fish Fridays all-year round, as well as more frequent fasting, and it has expanded my faith experience!

For a few years now, I've also been making these Pretzels for Lent. So easy, and so good!  I make mine half whole wheat, half regular wheat--wonderful flavor with a bit of each. They make a tasty side to a cup of Lenten soup, or as a small snack with a cup of tea suitable for fast days. Here is a nice article on how pretzels fit in with Lent.

Daily prayer is an important part of my life, and even more so during Lent. I need the quiet time with God. My day just isn't the same without it! Praying the Rosary is also part of my mornings. During certain seasons of the Catholic year, Lent & Easter, and Advent & Christmas especially, I like adding reading from a daily devotional, which offers extra prayers, and deeper look into Bible passages connected with the spiritual seasons. This year during Lent I'm reading the devotional Living Lent with Mercy by Pope Francis.

Mercy is an extra theme this year! 2016 has been specially designated by Pope Francis as a Jubilee Year of Mercy. A Holy Year dedicated to a time of cultivating, sharing and offering grace, peace, conversion and joy for all people. A truly beautiful moment in time!


  1. this is an absolutely beautiful post tracy.
    i am going out today to barnes and noble to get
    'a course in miracles' and also 'the work book' to it.
    the work book covers 365 days.
    this post with its centered and reverent celebration is the perfect beginning for my year of renewal.
    thank you darling girl of the north! xo♥

  2. Wonderful baking. Your soup looks really tasty. In the natural world this is a lean time too. We're having so many storms, so I feel sorry for the birds, not able to feed properly. Pancake Day tomorrow!

  3. My church doesn't celebrate Lent, but we do share in the stories. The cinnamon rolls, oh my but they look delicious. Love your Lenten altar too.

  4. So many links for me to go back and check. Usually I celebrate Lent although officially my church doesn't. Also, I am joining four friends to read through a book and discuss each Friday during Lent. Something my church is doing for the whole year is reading through the entire Bible together--excellent to do it with others. And I am hungry for cinnamon rolls now!

  5. What a lovely post about your Lenten practices. The soups look good, too! Have you ever read Henri Nouwen's devotionals? I love his writings :)

  6. Thank you for this beautiful post, Tracy!
    I have heard about Fastnacht, but never knew the eating tradition.
    As a child we didn't eat any candy for 40 days. That is, we tried (o: We put the candy in a box and were allowed to eat candy again at 12 pm on Easter Saturday.
    I now try to eat no candy.
    I hope Lent brings you peace, happiness and encourages your hope!

  7. It's lovely seeing how you honor Lent. And how busy you are preparing with the baking and soups and pretzels! I hadn't heard about Fastnacht although I'd heard of the others (Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, etc.) Your rolls look delicious!

    As a kid, we would tend to give up. Now I tend to give out during Lent -- trying to do random or not so random acts that help others more consciously. It's a shift but it works for me.

    Lent tends to be a hard time for me as it usually synchs up with the time my mother was at her most ill before dying in April.


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