Yesterday afternoon a bag full of goodies -- mishloach manot -- arrived at our door. My kids particularly liked the hamentaschen, triangle-shaped cookies filled with poppyseed paste or jam. According to the note in the bag, the tradition of baking and giving sweets on Purim came about, in part, as a way to rid the house of chametz (leavened goods) prior to Passover.
We live in a neighborhood with a large Jewish population, including a number of elderly emigrees from the Hitler era. Purim is a big, fun celebration that includes all ages, though the kids seem to have the best time. A friend tells me that during the feast you're supposed to drink until you can't tell the difference between the phrases "Cursed is Haman" and "Blessed is Mordecai". In 2009, Purim fell on Ash Wednesday. My friend wondered what kind of slaughter that caused in years past. She guessed her ancestors in caroused very quietly.
I am grateful that our goodie package was delivered on Sunday. Lent lasts 40 days, but every Sunday is a 'little Easter' and hence is a feast day, so it doesn't count for fasting and abstinence. That means that if treats arrive at the door on a Sunday, we can rationalize eating them.
But not all of us gave up sweets for Lent. Little Guy is giving up saying,"I hate you!" Another child is working on being kinder to siblings, and another is trying to get rid of a bad habit. The most memorable Lenten sacrifice I recall was years ago, when Big Guy was about five. He graciously gave up eating butter with his fingers. So far as I know, he hasn't reverted.