Growing up Catholic, we took Lent seriously and were encouraged to give something up. Usually it was candy.
Nowadays that doesn't bother me in the least, but it was a difficult sacrifice for a child. My resolve rarely lasted a week. I'd be fine the first three days, and would feel highly virtuous, a feeling I like more now than I did then.
But within two days of Ash Wednesday, I craved sugar with an intensity that made my teeth chatter, and I usually found some way to sneak red licorice or chocolate into my mouth. (Giving up red meat would have been a far easier sacrifice back then, as I loathed the stuff and resorted to all sorts of ingenious ways of avoiding it.)
The entire family (except my father) was sacrifice-prone for the dreary weeks leading up to Easter. Candy jars would go unfilled until Holy Saturday when no one could wait any longer and the deprivation generally ended.
My father ignored such things, as he ignored religion. But he relished the culinary customs of Catholicism. On Shrove Tuesday, he'd prepare some fatty dish and hum "Jambalaya" under his breath, always deliberately mishearing the lyrics so he could ask, "Who's this Billy Gumbo fellow, anyway?"
During Lent, he'd order lobster and clams and shrimp, having some of it flown in from the East Coast (a huge extravagance in those days). It was for the restaurant, of course, but we enjoyed it, too: Lobster with chive-y butter, clam chowder, oysters, scallops, shrimp - oh my!
For school-day lunches, there were fish sticks and French fries and macaroni-and-cheese.
Today I try to give something up, not for religious reasons (I stopped practicing when I got it right), but because it feels good.
Note: The candy dish belonged to Mémére. I noticed today that it has a few small splashes of red paint on it, same as Annie's pressed glass goblets (Sept. 25, 2006).