The new meaning of fast

'Askonsdagen' (Ash Wednesday in English) falls on February 22 this year, marking the beginning of Lent.  

  • Fasting in Sweden today—a too old-fashioned a notion? It doesn’t have to mean refraining from meat; a more modern version might as well mean no candy and no Facebooking, leaving more time for friends, family and reflection.
  • Just in case you don't have a café or food service with "semlor" near, here's a link to a recipe to make your own Celebrate with a 'semla' or 'fettisdagsbulle'

  • 'Askonsdagen' (Ash Wednesday), February 22, 2012
  • Ash Wednesday is also the start of the most important collection period for the Swedish Church, which for years has given out so-called “fastebössor,” little boxes of paper meant for the members to put a few coins in every day. Last year, the collection brought in at least 13 million SEK ($1.9 million), that went mostly to international work.
    But paschal fast, which originated in ancient practices and is thought to prepare the believer for Easter through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial, doesn’t have to be about giving up meat, which probably few Swedes do anyway.

  • “Some of the children in our church gave up candy on Saturdays and put that money in the ‘fastebössan,’” says Pastor Eva Ellnemyr at Botkyrka parish in southern Stockholm. She herself will give up meat, candy and alcohol during the fast.
    “Candy is what’s hardest to refrain from, but the connection between giving money meant for candy for the Church’s international work is very concrete. And I like that the body is involved, too. Often we intellectualize our faith; the fast is a bodily reminder that our faith counts,” she says.
    The paschal fast was important in Sweden during the Middle Ages, when the country was still Catholic, but disappeared with the Reformation. And with the growing secularization, most Swedes have lost the motivation to fast because of religious beliefs. Still tens of thousands of Swedes will fast because of their faith, though the fast might not mean abstinence from food or certain foods but instead other things. Ellnemyr explains that she will also leave Facebook alone during the week and spend more time on family, friends and reflection. “When I talk with young people and candidates for Confirmation, we talk about how much one can let the fast be noticed in daily life,” she says.