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Lenten traditions range from fasting to hot cross buns
Lent precedes Easter each year and is full of time-honored traditions, among them the familiar hot cross buns.

The Lenten season marks a period of 40 days when faithful Christians prepare for the glory of Easter Sunday. Easter commemorates the miracle of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, which is foundational for the Christian faith.

Lent is a season when Christians reflect and prepare to celebrate Easter. Lent is a period of spiritual purification that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday. Fasting, giving alms and prayer are some of the hallmarks of Lent.

Many Lenten traditions are well known, but others are not. Here’s a glimpse at some of those traditions.

The first ‘Lent’

Lent is based on the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert in preparation for his public life. Matthew 4:1-11 shares that Christ was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit for a period of fasting and prayer, where He constantly encountered the devil and his temptations. Lent also mirrors the period of time (40 days) that the Israelites spent in their journey from slavery in Egypt to the promised land of Israel.

Black fasts

While certain Lenten restrictions have lightened up a bit in recent years, it once was the norm to consume a single meal per day of bread, water and herbs after sunset on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, which was known as a black fast. During the other days of Lent, no food was allowed until 3 p.m., which Christians believe was the hour of Our Lord’s death.

Piñatas for Lent?

The Lenten tradition of hitting a papier mâché creation filled with candy originated in Italy. Eventually the idea was picked up by the Spanish and brought to Mexico, where the familiar piñatas now known to partygoers across the globe appeared. Professor Michael Foley, author of “Dining with the Saints,” says the original piñata had seven cones to represent the seven deadly sins. Hitting the cones and defeating the sins revealed the heavenly reward in the form of candy.

Prayerful pretzels

In the early Middle Ages, when other foods were not allowed during Lent, pretzels became popular. The twisted shape of the pretzels was associated with arms entwined in prayer.

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns are synonymous with Easter. Although they may predate Christianity and might have been a tradition adopted to make Christianity more relatable to the masses, one legend suggests they originated with a twelfth century Anglican monk. This monk reportedly baked the buns and marked them with crosses in honor of Good Friday. These yeasted sweet rolls have since become a popular treat on Easter weekend.