Observing Lent: Do Sundays and Special Celebration Days “Count”?

We have a large community here at Catholic Icing, so I know I’m right when I assume that some of you have kids with a birthday on Ash Wednesday, or on a Friday during this Lent. Or maybe there is a graduation celebration, a wedding, or something else coming up and the timing was out of your control. Someone reading this right now has been stressed out wondering what to do about that.

So first of all I’m going to say… good job, fellow Catholic mom! If you’re stressed out about this, it means that you care about your religion and your convictions, and also that you care about your kid and their happiness. That means you’re doing a great job! Go ahead and pat yourself on the back. 🙂

Now let me to walk you through this conundrum. The first step is to understand Lenten sacrifice in the first place. 

Do The Sundays During Lent “Count”?

First of all, it’s a popular belief that there are 40 days in Lent. That’s only partially true. There are actually 46 days. You see, the Sundays don’t “count” in Lent. When you give something up during Lent, you’re allowed to have that thing on Sunday. Why? Here’s the explanation: 

  • Every Friday (especially during Lent) we are remembering Good Friday, when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. It was a sad day. That’s why Catholics are asked to make a sacrifice on Friday (either abstaining from meat or offering up another sacrifice) because each Friday is like a mini Good Friday that we are observing. We remember Christ’s sacrifice for us each and every Friday.
  • LIKEWISE, each Sunday we are remember Easter Sunday and Jesus’s resurrection for us! And it’s joyful! This is why we go to Mass on Sundays. Each one is a little joyful celebration of Easter Sunday. And the fact that we are celebrating a mini Easter on Sunday actually trumps the fact that it’s Lent. We take a little break from our Lenten sacrifices and sufferings, and we celebrate Christ’s victory over the grave!

I’m going to repeat that. The joy of Sunday trumps Lenten resolutions. You got that? It trumps it. It doesn’t make you “less Catholic” if you eat whatever you gave up for Lent on Sunday. It means you have a full understanding of the Liturgical year. And you certainly wouldn’t want to be judging anyone that is choosing to celebrate mini-Easter, would you?

Celebrating Solemnities During Lent…

Try to stay with me on this… 😉

Ok, keeping in the same line of thought, when there is a solemnity or important feast day during Lent, it will also “trump” Lent, in fact, even more so than the Sundays. The priest will even wear white rather than purple, and the “Gloria” will be added back into the mass, which is otherwise missing during Lent. If this falls during a Friday, abstaining from meat and other sacrifices are also lifted for the day.

Now… to go ahead and make this confusing, your individual diocese determines what days are Holy Days of Obligation, or Solemnities. So for instance, in Ireland, St. Patrick’s day is a Solemnity. So the Irish can celebrate and eat corned beef hash and whatever else isn’t allowed during Lent. However, in the United States, it’s usually not. But a diocese with a large Irish population can proclaim it a Solemnity, and some of them do. So if you’re in one of those diocese, then you can also forgo abstaining and fasting.

Now lets pretend that you are an Irish American family, but you live in a diocese that did not proclaim St. Patrick’s Day a solemnity. I’m going to go ahead and argue that for you and your family, it’s fine to say it’s a solemnity for you because you know in your heart that you want to celebrate the feast day for authentic reasons.

It’s not like you’re saying “Wow, it’s national cheeseburger day! I better eat a cheeseburger even though it’s Friday!” because I would fully disagree with that logic, obviously. It would be like saying you’re giving up skiing for Lent when you have actually never skied. At some point, you have to discern in your own heart what is right, because the church gives us as many helping boundaries as possible, but God knows our individual situations and what’s in our hearts.

So now I’m going to take that a step farther, and honestly tell you that this is how we handle these situations in our home. A birthday of an immediate family member is considered a personal Solemnity in our home. So we all eat cake. No one can control the day they are born or when their birthday falls, and the gift of life given to us by God in the form of a child is absolutely worth celebrating. I have the highest hopes that all of my children are future Saints, and therefore, why not celebrate their feast days? 🙂

I would also like to add a small reminder here that it is not a sin to “break a resolution” during Lent (example: you give up chocolate for Lent, then you break down and have some on a random day… that’s not a sin. It’s just a broken resolution.)

In conclusion… Let them eat cake!!! 😀

And of course, I’m a huge believer in observing Lent during Lent, passing the faith onto your kids, and saving Easter for Easter. Be sure to check out my Lenten resources for kids below. 🙂

Find my resources to observe Lent with kids here

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