Fasting, putting ash on the foreheads, and giving up a “luxury” are all common practices surrounding the 40-day period leading to Easter Sunday, where Catholics and Christians around the world honor Jesus for His sacrifice on the cross as well as His 40-day fast in the wilderness.
Lent traditions vary from household to household. For example, Daniela Soto and Katheryn Soto typically light candles. On the first Sunday of Lent, all six candles are lit. One candle is extinguished with every passing week, allowing it to be the darkest on Good Friday - the Friday before Easter when Christ took His last breath.
The sisters also participate in Ash Wednesday, where a priest applies a cross on their foreheads with ash as an outward sign of their faith. Due to current circumstances with COVID-19, the Soto family received their ashes via pouches that they applied by themselves, which was very convenient, according to Daniela.
To most, Lent is known to be a time of repentance and sacrifice, but the Soto siblings view it as a more positive time of thankfulness. “I hold [Lent] very dear to my heart… We are doing what Jesus did for us to show that we’re thankful for what He did,” explains Katheryn. Instead of a punishment, she views it as an honor to have the opportunity to give back to her Savior.
Because many people (including Christians of certain denominations) are not familiar with Lent, the sisters have had interesting experiences while observing Lent in school. Katheryn recalls a time where her Catholic friend was surprised that she took Lent so seriously. She explained to her friend the significance it held and appreciated their curiosity and interest in her traditions.
Her older sister, Daniela, also appreciates the respect and courage of those who ask about Lent. “You come out knowing more,” she says.
For those who may be wondering what this time of honoring Jesus is about, Daniela has a suggestion for non-believers who want to take part in Lent: “Even if you’re not religious, [it] doesn’t mean you can’t do Lent. You can do it as a challenge... to come out a better person.”