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Lent, A Time of Sacrifice

Twenty Five years ago, when the time of lent came, it was a time of sincere sacrifice. Lent was not only about fasting, but a time to sacrifice. Most men took time to give up smoking and drinking since those were two of the most common bad habits. So the only smoke there was in the village was the smoke of the “fogon” (fire hearth). The shelves at the village store remained packed with their Colonial cigarettes. And so did the shelves of the local bar remained stocked with their white rum.

With very little entertainment in the village, what would the women and ladies give up? A few women gave up putting any type of makeup cosmetics and wearing of jewelry. All types of dances were discontinued in the village, so the ladies really had no need for makeup or to dress up in anyway. The women all believed that this spirit of seriousness and no celebration were in line with the mourning that the Blessed Virgin Mary went through at the suffering and death of her son Jesus Christ.

Children at school gave up all types of things that they normally enjoyed doing to go into the spirit of mourning that lent reminds us of.

Actually students had to write on a piece of paper what they were going to do or give up for lent and turned it into the teacher who kept a vigilant eye on the students’ commitment and promises. Some gave up chewing of gum. Others gave up all types of sweet things including candies, chocolates and biscuits.

Soft drinks were another popular item to give up. As you can figure out, there was little entertainment in days gone by, so one popular entertainment given up during lent was swimming. Imagine the beaches of San Pedro empty of jolly children who enjoyed swimming practically every afternoon, especially on Sundays. That was very noticeable, so the village really looked sad.

Now for the fasting in San Pedro twenty five years ago. Mama would announce, “There shall be no eating of meat, beef or pork, no corned beef, potted meat, luncheon meat, spam, nothing that is meat.”

Mom did not even fry fish with pig fat or lard. She strictly used coconut oil. In a village where meat was not eaten frequently, now fish became the absolute source of food for forty days and forty nights of lent. So it was hashed fish in the morning, fish soup at midday, and fried fish or fish egg in the evening. But listen to this interesting thing about abstaining from meat.

“No sex during lent, honey,” said Rosa Maria very casually, and awaiting a reaction.

“But why?” inquired Jose Antonio.

And Rosa Maria added, “When the Bible talks about meat, it refers to human flesh, so that includes sex. That is how my grandmother brought us up, so honey, you can forget it for lent because it is our tradition.”

“No problem, Maria, no problem.” And so it was that lent was observed 25 years ago with a lot of “no” to this and “no” to that as a form of self sacrifice.

– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist

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