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It's Ash Wednesday — the first day of Lent, which is a holy day for many Christians


Today is Valentine's Day. It's also Ash Wednesday. The first day of Lent is a holy day for many Christians.


During this time of charity, prayer and fasting for many, people who observe Lent also choose abstinence as a way to mark the weeks leading up to Easter. Giving up chocolate is a classic example.

FADEL: Whew. A hard one any time of the year, but especially on Valentine's Day.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) You're just like, no.


INSKEEP: But in recent years, more people have decided to take a break from social media or cutting down on screen time. You can do that. Just listen to more radio. Some advocates this year suggest giving up carbon emissions - driving less or turning down the thermostat.

FADEL: But Father James Martin says lent isn't just about sacrifices. He's a Jesuit priest and editor-at-large at the Catholic magazine America.

JAMES MARTIN: You know, I try to curb my tongue in terms of gossiping and give more to the poor and just try to be a kinder person,

FADEL: Martin says he also observes the custom that he started in his college days, when his Jewish friends suggested what he should give up for Lent.

MARTIN: They said, well, who decides what you give up? And I said, well, I do. And they're like, well, how hard is that? And I said, what would you suggest? And they said, we should decide what you give up. So they did. And the first year I think I gave up Hostess SnoBalls - you know, those pastries - and orange soda.

INSKEEP: And if you just can't bear to give something up, you can also consider giving.

MARTIN: And if you're stuck, just look around in your life and see someone who's needy and give them a phone call, or a homeless person on the street and take them into a restaurant and give them a meal. So I think in addition to giving up, it's doing something positive as well.

INSKEEP: He sees Lent as a chance to recall the common good.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.