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

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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.

FADEL: Ugh.

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.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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