Today is the first day of Lent, the 40 (ish) day period of fasting before Easter. In the Armenian Church, traditionally we abstain from eating all animal products (with the possible exception of fish....). Going hard-core vegan is difficult, so the Eastern Diocese recommends at least going vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays. I did this last year, and it does get tedious. I would like to add another fast day during the week, but then I have to negotiate with my odar husband, who gets cranky at the prospect of no meat at dinner twice a week.
Here are some tips from the Eastern Diocese. Notice that one of the sample recipes is a fish recipe! I am taking that as an okay to eat fish. I have heard mixed things about whether fish is okay. It makes my life a lot easier if it is.
Why do we fast for Lent in the first place? First, we are preparing ourselves for the resurrection of Christ. Our fast is based upon Jesus's 40 days/nights in the desert, when he fasted and resisted Satan (Matthew 4:12). I was thinking that the desert probably isn't as good of a place to resist temptation as living your every day life in an environment that presents temptation and bad behavior at every turn (I wonder what the Biblical equivalent of Bratz dolls were? Or Girls Gone Wild videos?), but when you are uncomfortable physically, you end up being a lot more uncomfortable mentally. It is easy to love God when you are comfortable and everything is going right. It is much harder when you are experiencing difficulty, discomfort, and deprivation (just look at the book of Job!).
Lent is also about removing those secular distractions, although I confess that I am not very good at this, personally. In theory, I should refrain from TV, movies, and other fun activities, but in practice, I probably won't.
In some ways, the Catholic way of doing Lent (give up something of your own choice, don't eat meat on Fridays) may be more challenging. I gave up alcohol a couple of times, and I have never successfully given up chocolate, despite a few attempts. However, the Armenian way of Lent is perhaps more mindful. Even something as mundane as eating breakfast, guess what? Even if you want a simple breakfast of oatmeal, you can't put milk on it. Eggs? Forget it. Cheese and bread? Nope. And that is just breakfast! So you think about God every meal of the day, and when you are grocery shopping too.