I hope everyone is having a blessed Lazarus Saturday, which means that tomorrow is Palm Sunday. This is the rare year when the churches of the East and West will be celebrating Easter -- Pascha in the East -- on the same date. So, for the East, Lent is ending and we are headed into a completely different fast -- Holy Week. I never have understood the precise moment when, in the West, Lent ends and Holy Week begins. Is it Wednesday night? Do the two seasons overlap for several days? I didn't learn much about that when I was growing up Southern Baptist (but I learned lots of other things, most of them good).
Anyway, I bring this up because the folks here at GetReligion rather enjoy off-the-beaten-path stories about the holy seasons of different faiths. So it is with a happy wink that I point you toward the front page of The Washington Times, where you will find a fun little piece of liturgical business news by reporter Jen Haberkorn.
It seems that there may be some people out there in Western pews who take Lent seriously after all. Here's the top of the story:
Lent, the 40 days before Easter observed by Christians, can mean big bucks for fishy businesses.
Seafood restaurants, whether fast-food or white tablecloth, rake in the clams during the season, especially on Fridays, when Catholics are supposed to abstain from meat. Long John Silver's, the largest seafood chain in the country, does about one-third of its annual business during Lent.
"It's quite important," said Keith Botner, marketing manager for Long John Silver's. "We use this six- to seven-week time frame to hit home on our brand positioning."
Traditionally, Catholics have eaten fish, instead of meat, as a form of sacrifice. ... Long John Silver's increases advertising during Lent and typically introduces a new product. This year, it's an Alaskan flounder. The chain schedules extra staff and puts out product samples in the stores.
Wait, there's more!
Other fast-food restaurants have gotten into the seafood game. McDonald's, Arby's, KFC, Popeyes and Burger King offer fish sandwiches. Just under one-quarter of McDonald's Filet-o-Fish sandwiches are sold during Lent, the Oak Brook, Ill., chain said.
The season affects business in nicer establishments, as well. On Good Friday, says a Legal Sea Foods representative, business is usually up 300 percent over a normal Friday crowd, which is already a big day in the week for several reasons.
I am reminded of a story told by a former member of our church here in Linthicum, Md., whose work as a diplomat took his family to Greece. That culture retains clear signs of Orthodox influence, even though many of the people are totally assimilated and secular. Nevertheless, as he told the story, the McDonald's restaurants in Greece do offer what the signs call a "McLent" menu.
Has anyone else seen any fun Lenten stories worth mentioning?