Belfast Telegraph

From sweets and buns to daily bread, what will we be giving up for 40 days?


Buttered bread
Buttered bread
Tough love: some people find it hard to give up something for Lent like chocolate
People at the gym
Red wine

Today marks the start of Lent when Christians traditionally give up something they enjoy - and others use the period as an incentive to do likewise, usually in the quest of healthier living. But is it still as popular? Stephanie Bell asks some well-known faces if they are making any sacrifices - and if not, why not?

‘If I succeed then I will be all over the Easter eggs!’

Cool FM presenter Pete Snodden (37) lives in Bangor with his wife Julia (37) and daughters Ivana (6) and Elayna (3).

He says:

When I was a child I would have tried to give up chocolate and sweets for Lent but honestly, I haven't given anything up for years.

If I do it is usually something easy so it is just a half-hearted attempt. This year I will try to give up chocolate.

I don't need it and as you get older it is harder to keep the weight off so every little bit helps. I don't eat loads of chocolate but if it is in the house I will eat it.

If I succeed this year then come Easter I will be all over the Easter eggs like a rash.

My mother still buys me an egg every Easter and I will look forward to that."

‘I love toast if I am stressed’

Joan Burney Keatings (43), chief executive of Cinemagic, lives in Moira with husband Jonathan Keatings (40) and their daughters Zara (9) and Savanna (6). She says:

It has been the big discussion in our house all week. Zara is not going to give anything up but instead is going to try and get herself super healthy and do 13,000 steps a day with her Fitbit.

Savanna is going to try and not ask for mummy's mobile phone all the time to watch endless videos. I am going to try to give up nibbling at night and I am going to cut out bread.

Between us we are still trying to think of something that Johnny can give up. I am a complete nibbler and especially if I have had a really busy day at work I will just spend the night eating, usually cheese or whatever bad things there are in the house.

I love bread and I eat it every day. If I am stressed the first thing I reach for is tea and toast. It is going to be hard to give it up but I am going to try.

I try and give something up for Lent every year and I always start off with the best intentions in the world but I have only made it to Easter a couple of times.

There is definitely a religious aspect to it for me and I think to be disciplined enough to give something up is to remember what this time of the year is all about.

I am going to try really hard this year, there is not going to be a piece of bread in sight."

'I've stopped complaining'

The Rev Kevin Graham (50) is Rector of St Bartholomew's Church of Ireland in Stranmillis, Belfast. He is married to Cheryl (50) and they have two sons, Jamie (20) and Luke (15). He says:

Lent has been part of my life since I was old enough to understand what it meant and had the ability to give something up.

As a child, it was usually chocolate, sweets or crisps. As you grow up, the things you get enjoyment from in life changes from a bag of crisps to something else.

Lately, I have moved away from giving up my physical attachment to something like chocolate, or sugar, to changing attitudes.

I recall Pope Francis saying about observing Lent that giving things up can be helpful to us in our character development.

As a result, I wanted to see how I could develop my character in a more Godly way, so this year I have decided to give up complaining.

I think it is so easy to complain about things and we have so much to be thankful for, so for the next six weeks or so, I am hoping to give up complaining and be more thankful and concentrate on what is good around me."

‘My dechoc will be tough’

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly (58) lives in Aghalee with her husband Eamon.

She says:

I haven't given up anything for Lent for years but this year after seeing the British Heart Foundation advertisement for 'dechoc' I've decided to give up chocolate.

Years ago I gave up sugar in my tea and on cereal for Lent and I have given it up ever since. In the last couple of years rather than give something up I've tried to do something positive and last year it was pray more and go to Mass more during Lent.

I do have a sweet tooth and would tend to reach for a chocolate bar on the go if I missed a meal or at night if I am tired. I use chocolate as a pick me up. It will be a sacrifice for me and it is going to be tough. I am doing it to try and be healthier.

I remember as a child if you had been successful and stuck to whatever it was you were giving up for Lent, you were allowed to gorge on St Patrick's Day. I think if I make it to St Patrick's Day without chocolate I will be so pleased with myself that I won't want to gorge for a day."

'This year I'm not doing it'

Actor and singer Conleth Kane, from Lurgan, who this Saturday launches a video of his new single What I Wouldn't Give to celebrate his 33rd birthday and his grandmother's Margaret Marley's birthday, says that while observing Lent was a tradition in his family, since moving to London he hasn't kept it up. He says:

I know a lot of people who do go off something for Lent. I always associate it with really religious people, but that's just my take on it.

Growing up as kids we always gave up something.

I also remember that about 20 years ago my dad went off red meat for Lent and he hasn't touched it since.

I do restrict myself a lot anyway throughout the year and generally I don't over indulge.

I haven't done Lent for years and don't plan to this year although I am sure my family will be marking it as usual."

‘I’m hitting the gym rather than giving something up’

Comedian John Linehan (66), aka May McFettridge, is married to Brenda (64) and has two grown-up daughters Donna and Kerry and two grandchildren Johnny and Eve. He says:

I am not giving anything up for Lent this year but I will be going on the treadmill and aim to train four days a week. I need to lose a bit of weight and I have been eating a healthy diet, but I plan with Lent to discipline myself to exercise more.

I have gone off drink a couple of times for Lent and succeeded so there is no point doing that because I know I have the willpower.

Also, you tend to get invited to all these dos when you aren't drinking and it is always a nightmare sitting with your Club Orange.

I discovered too that I can only stand my friends for 15 minutes when I am not drinking.

I spend four or five hours drinking in the golf club and its great craic and then you stop drinking and you realise you are just as boring as everyone else.

Next week I am going to be the new vice-captain of Fortwilliam Golf Club so I will be going to a lot of dos and it wouldn't do, not to be drinking.

I am a member of a gym but I just haven't been using it so Lent will be a good incentive to try to get onto the treadmill and do some swimming rather than giving something up this year.

It is not about religion for me - it is about trying to discipline yourself."

‘Not having sweet, sugary fudge will be a sacrifice'

Barbara McCann (60) is an on-screen journalist with UTV and lives in Hillsborough. She says:

When I was a child I remember during Lent we used to walk to Mass every day with our friends who lived next door before we went to school.

I would have always given up sweets for Lent as I probably believed I would go to hell if I didn't.

I haven't given up anything for Lent for years but I do plan this year to give up chocolate and buns and fudge.

Maybe because I am getting older and also because I have put on so much weight recently I've decided to give it a go this year.

I blame the buns in UTV. You can't come in here without someone bringing in or sending in buns and they don't last long. Also, I visit my mum everyday and she always has chocolate in her fridge which she says she gets in for me.

I can't resist opening her fridge to see what I will find, and last night it was an Aero bar.

I also love sweet sugary fudge; there is a girl in work whose mum makes the best fudge ever and she would bring me a bag in from time to time and I don't share them, I eat them all myself because they are so nice.

I tried last year to give up sweet stuff for Lent and lasted two days. It will be a sacrifice for me and this year I am going to see just how much willpower I have. I try to be spiritual and I think at this time of year in particular I would hope to have more willpower because of the religious aspect, although there will be personal gain as well if I lose plenty of weight."

'It adds too much pressure'

Playwright Leesa Harker (40) lives in Belfast with her two daughters, Lola (10) and Lexi (7). Her hit play Maggie's Feg Run is back by popular demand at The Mac from today for two weeks. She says:

I am dead against Lent. I think there is far too much pressure on us all in everyday life without the added pressure of trying to give something up.

I think women in particular have so much pressure now with kids and working and having to cook meals fresh without having to give up chocolate or wine as well - they need their chocolate and wine! I think God would understand.

I don't believe in giving things up at any time and I don't believe in New Year resolutions. I am not a deeply religious person and it really does my head in at this time of the year with all the talk on Facebook about what people are giving up for Lent.

I believe in doing something positive rather than giving something up. I think random acts of kindness are what we need to heal this sore world.

I like to keep what I do private and I don't like getting glory for it, but even something as simple as telling someone they have a lovely smile can brighten their day. So no, I won't even be considering giving up anything for Lent."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph