DARKE COUNTY — Every year, as sure as snow will descend across a wintry Ohio in February, people of all Christian faith traditions are preparing for the season of Lent.
Originating from an old Anglo-Saxon word lencten meaning “spring or springtime,” the term “Lent” was first used as early as the 12th century to describe a period of fasting, abstinence and reflection in the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. In 325 A.D., the idea of a 40-day seasonal fast was introduced at the First Council of Nicaea, and based upon the temptation of Christ in the desert prior to his public ministry (as noted in the Gospels, particularly in Matthew 4: 1-11 and Luke 4: 1-13).
St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria and leader of the Council, wanted to be certain that the full 40 days were observed; during the season of Lent, Sundays were also considered “minor feasts,” and as such, could not be considered part of the “total count” of the fast. Thus, the first day of the seasonal fast, according to Athanasius, should be on a Wednesday, which has become known in the Christian world as “Ash Wednesday.”
Many Christian traditions, such as Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and some Protestant denominations mark the start of Lent with worship services on Ash Wednesday. In the Roman Catholic tradition, although not considered a holy day of obligation, Ash Wednesday is faithfully observed by attending Mass and receiving ashes upon one’s forehead with a personal blessing, administered by a priest or deacon. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vatican has issued a “no contact” protocol for the safe distribution of ashes: the priest will issue one blessing to all in attendance, and then, after washing his hands and putting on a face mask, will sprinkle ashes over the head of each person without speaking. Although different this year, parishioners are thankful that the churches are open, unlike last year, when they were shuttered throughout most of the Lenten and Easter seasons.
Two interesting Lenten traditions are those of abstinence and fasting. In the age of social media, Twitter followers have also taken to posting their “fasting preferences” on the “Twitter Lent Tracker” (yes, it is real) since 2009. Items such as chocolate, sweets, coffee, meat and alcohol have consistently made the top 10 list of things people resolve to “give up” for Lent; however, more recently, habits, such as swearing and social networking, have also appeared.
Throughout Lent, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are required to abstain from eating meat (warm-blooded land animals), and often choose to consume fish (cold-blooded water dwellers). As a result, many churches and other organizations offer special Friday meals, often serving varieties of fish such as pollack, perch, haddock or walleye, served on “fish fry” Fridays, which often support the philanthropic outreach efforts of the church and community-at-large. In years past, before COVID-19, lines of people would form to enjoy fellowship and “all-you-can-eat” meals during each Friday of Lent. This year, many have continued this tradition, continuing the carry out and drive-thru “to-go” options for those who prefer to take their meals home rather than dine-in.
The Knights of Columbus, Sidney Chapter, will be hosting a fish fry from 5 to 7 p.m. at 1300 N. Fourth Ave., Sidney. Cost is $8 for carry-out and $5 for children 11 and under. Dine-in unavailable at this time. Additional Friday fish frys will be held Feb. 26, March 5, March 12, March 19, March 26 and April 2.
The Greenville Knights of Columbus 1796 will hold drive-thru carry-out fish fry, beginning Feb. 19, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., at the Knights of Columbus Hall, located 4975 Children’s Home-Bradford Road in Greenville. A carry-out meal of pollack, fries, coleslaw and dinner roll will be available for $8. Additional fish fry Fridays are Feb. 26, March 5, March 12, March 19, and March 26.
St. Denis Parish will hold three fish fry Fridays, beginning Feb. 26, March 12, and March 26, from 4 p.m. until the fish is gone, located in the church basement at 14 E. Wood St. in Versailles, offering both dine-in and carry-out meals of pollack, two sides (macaroni and cheese or green beans, cole slaw or applesauce) and a dinner roll, available for $8.
Most of all, Lent is a season of reflection, grace and hope. When we see the snow continue to fall throughout February, it is comforting to remind ourselves that Spring, with its vibrant color and beauty, is just around the corner.