Top 10 Things Americans Are Giving Up for Lent

February 27, 2020
Top 10 Things Americans Are Giving Up for Lent

Although rooted in ancient Christian practice, the idea of “giving something up for Lent” permeates American popular culture.

Witness the Twitter Lent Tracker operated for a decade by The index tracks the number of mentions of Lent or “giving up” something during the week of Ash Wednesday and compiles a Top 100 ranking.

In 2019, No. 1 on the list of the forgone (1,529 tweets) was social networking.

Rounding out the Top 10 were:

2. Alcohol

3. Twitter

4. Chocolate

5. Lent

6. Meat

7. Swearing

8. Coffee

9. Soda

10. Sex

Other top things given up that cracked the Top 10 in previous years include:

• Fast food

• Chips

• School

• Marijuana

• Instagram

Top categories, based on number of tweets, include: food, social media/technology, habits, smoking/drugs/alcohol, relationships, school/work, sex, religion and politics.

Why do people give things up for Lent?

The answer is shrouded in antiquity but has something to do with the way candidates for baptism prepared for the Easter vigil in the early days of Christianity.

By the fourth century, the 40-day fast was common enough to be mentioned in the canons of the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325). Writing around the same time, St. Athanasius said, “Anyone who neglects to observe the 40-days fast is not worthy to celebrate the Easter festival.”

Over the centuries, the fast has been relaxed, but the idea of giving something up — even if it is not food — has had staying power.

In the Roman Catholic Church, fasting is most rigorous on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with abstinence from meat prescribed for every Friday of Lent. Hence, the popular reliance on Lenten seafood specials at grocery stores and fish fries at churches and local fire halls (among other places).

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)