By Brandon Mercer

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — It’s Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, and the night before Ash Wednesday, and while that means drinking, eating, frying up some pancakes, and maybe tossing some beads or baring your… well, let’s just say come midnight, it’s the polar opposite and time for self-reflection, spiritual focusing, and self-denial.

Ash Wednesday, tomorrow, begins the 40 days of Lent, and what used to be a religious period in the Catholic and Christian faith is quickly going mainstream. (Quick side note: If you see someone with a smudge on their forehead tomorrow, don’t wipe it off for them. It’s a religious observation, applying ashes to remind Christians of the concept, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” (Incidentally, that’s not a Biblical passage, but came from a Anglican funeral rite.))

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There’s a self-righteous rush in denouncing our vices, and being holier than thou even just for the month and a third before Easter, but it can be more than that.

40 days is long enough to form a habit, and whether you’re a secular humanist or a conservative Catholic, giving something up (or giving up time and money by ADDING something) can lead to a better life.

Not just health, but also happiness, spiritual well-being, and being a part of supporting the rest of humanity.

Twitter is exploding with pre-#Lent discussions, from donating, to doing 40 acts.

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The UK-based group “40 Acts” is encouraging generosity and a giving spirit, and started it out with free pancakes for Shrove Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras), a day where hotcakes are typically eaten before we cut back on carbs or syrup, or frying anything. Many Christians give up eggs, dairy, and meat (except on Sunday feasts) during Lent

Twitter’s @Bloodwater ( is encouraging you to give something up, and then give clean water to Rwanda, pointing out that the three villages they are working with have 2,000 people who walk an hour just to get water for cooking and chores every day.
Their pitch? “Give up that soda, coffee, or smoothie for 40 days and donate what you save toward clean water for moms, dads, and children of Ngiryi, Gitanu, and Kigaroma villages.”

Heck, even marketers are getting into it, with this promo for a retreat with a juicing menu. Jesus when he was out in the desert being tempted by Satan could have really gone for this detox retreat! But Conde Naste surely meant it all in good fun.

Will you add something or give something up for Lent or maybe not for Lent, but for the good of yourself and others?

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