This morning was a hungover for many carnival people, but traditionally the Wednesday after carnival, Ash Wednesday, is the start of Lent for Catholics. And more and more people are participating in this again, albeit not always out of religious conviction.
Jochem Oor, the Dutch project leader of the World Youth Days, takes Lent seriously. As a wine lover, he leaves the alcohol during the week and the meals are also a bit sparse, except on Sundays, then it is allowed. But he is mainly concerned with the spiritual dimension. “You shouldn’t do it to follow the rules. I’m looking for it in the stillness. I’m quite a music lover, but that’s a bit less during this period. That way you make space in your head, in preparation for Easter.”
He also sees more enthusiasm among Catholic young people for fasting, although not necessarily in the traditional way. “Not because their grandparents did it too. You see that they are looking for it themselves, for example by using less social media, I come across that quite regularly. Even young people who let it be known that they will be absent for a while from then on. That is quite a great sacrifice for them.”
According to Frank Bosman, cultural theologian at Tilburg University, fasting is becoming increasingly popular, but more and more often outside the church. “There are still Roman Catholics who adhere to the 40-day fast. We all know, of course, that they are gradually becoming less because of secularization,” he explains in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal.
Many people like the idea of fasting, denying yourself something tasty or something extra for a few days. This is evident from successful initiatives such as Stoptober or Dry January. Bosman also knows why. “It’s because in our overstimulated society, where everyone is under a lot of pressure, we need a kind of spiritual detox. Take a moment to think about what I’m doing? Do I need this or that for a good life?”
This not only concerns matters such as less alcohol or meat consumption. Social media fasting has also been going on for a while, Bosman knows. “That is also a kind of false reality that people have had enough of and think: can I do without for forty days?”
In addition, there are people who think about their ecological footprint. “They ask themselves: what damage do I cause to the environment by always driving, eating meat and drinking alcohol? Is it perhaps good for the planet and for humanity to cut down a bit?”
The fact that it is often healthier to consume less fat, sweets or alcohol is an additional advantage, says the cultural theologian. “But I think that for many people there is mainly a spiritual side to it. The idea that you can also be happy without all those extras, that your happiness in life does not depend on it. I think that is an important argument for many people.”
During the corona crisis, he said, it turned out that for many people it could be a little less. “Some tried to see corona as an opportunity, as a reset or reboot. Consuming just a little less and not all the time in the car. That showed that fasting might be a very good idea. And that we can.”
- Fasting with colleagues: ‘Fits the idea of Ramadan’
- Carnival Sunday: going to church, large parades and bustle in Den Bosch