For some, the phrase "40 days and 40 nights" calls to mind images of Josh Hartnett in various sex-deprived panic attacks. But for others, that month and a half of Lent (starting on Ash Wednesday) signifies the Easter season and the start of a long period of giving up their favorite vices. According to an article at bbc.co.uk, the process of giving something up for lent is both an imitation of the sacrifices made by Jesus Christ as he fasted in the desert for forty days and nights, as well as an assessment of your own self-discipline.
Many, however, find it difficult to last the whole season.
"I usually give something up, like chocolate or candy, but I never last the full 40 days, so it kind of defeats the purpose," said freshman writing, literature and publishing (WLP) major Meaghan Alfier. "It's like, why do it in the first place?"
Sophomore journalism major Angela Campion is a member of Newman Club, Emerson's Catholic organization, which operates through the Center for Spiritual Life (CSL).
"For Lent last year I gave up all desserts and sweets," she said. "I did so good. And my birthday happened to fall on Easter, so I was able to celebrate with my friends by having a huge milkshake. It gave me something to look forward to, I guess."
To others, Lent isn't necessarily about sacrifice as much as it is dedication to your spirituality.
"Normally, I try to do things instead of give up things, like go to Mass or the adoration chapel more often," said freshman journalism major and Newman Club member Katharine Mohana.
However, freshman WLP major Brittany Hoxie doesn't necessarily view Lent as an entirely religious experience. Raised Catholic, Hoxie now considers herself to be more agnostic than anything. Regardless, she decided to give up sweets for Lent this year.
"I always thought that giving up something for such an extended period of time shows a lot of willpower, and there's a lot to be said for that," Hoxie said.
"To me, the whole process is to help better yourself as a person. It's a time to reflect on what's good for you and what's not," she said. She admitted, however, that after four weeks she "failed."
Yet it wasn't a total defeat, Hoxie said. After four weeks of forgoing candy and chocolate, she realized that eating healthier was more important to her overall well-being than just eliminating sweets altogether.
While some students such as Hoxie may take their spiritual endeavors into their own hands, others, like Alfier, don't seem too enthusiastic about such religious undertakings in the college setting. Giving up your favorite food or activity for almost six whole weeks may seem a little challenging, especially without your parents there to urge you on.
"I never really gave anything up because I meant it. I did it because my parents wanted me to," recalled Alfier. "I used to go to church a lot, too. I went every Sunday in my senior year [of high school], but I haven't gone once since I got here. I haven't even thought about it."
Kristelle Angelli, Catholic chaplain at the CSL, understands why Alfier and others might feel this way.
"I think it's a concept that a lot of people, not only students, don't really understand, or think is old-fashioned," she said. "And of course if people don't understand the value of something, they may not do it, especially being away from home for the first
"I think fasting is somewhat of a lost art in our day, because it is so counter-cultural," says Angelli. "It goes against the popular culture of consumerism which basically says, 'If it feels good, do it.' Fasting opens our minds and hearts to something greater."