When we moved to Lancaster County, PA six years ago, we were welcomed with some interesting local sayings from the heavy PA Dutch influence here, and a whole new day of celebration we had never heard of – Fastnacht Day!
My husband works for a large farm equipment dealer in the area, so he really does rub shoulders with the people who have lived in this region all their lives, some families living and farming on homesteads dating back to revolutionary times. He came home our first year here with hole-less donuts and explained the tradition to me.
For those never hearing of the term, it’s actually Donut Day! Well, donut day with a purpose. Fastnacht Day occurs the day before Lent begins. In order to prepare for the beginning of Lent and so as not to waste anything, the day before Lent women would make hole-less donuts called fastnachts to use all the lard, shortening, etc. that they would be ‘giving up’ for Lent.
So, I am sitting here today eating my fastnacht, not because I’m giving up lard or shortening for Lent, but because it’s tradition. But it does get me to thinking what I might give up in this 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. Some say it’s not a necessary thing to give anything up, that it’s all tradition, but I think it’s a good spiritual discipline to observe. We live in a culture where we have everything we need or want and then some. It seems good to deny ourselves of a few things or one big thing that we really like in order to draw our minds to Jesus and what He denied himself of for us.
Happy Fastnacht Day and why not take a few moments today and do a little soul-searching. Make a plan to give something up for Lent this year. Then let whatever you give up be a reminder to pray or read the Bible or a devotional. It might just draw you closer to Jesus and prepare you for a great Easter celebration.