Tuesday, February 20, 2007

pancake day and mardi gras and shriving

So today I learned that today, the day before Ash Wednesday, the last day before Lent starts, is called both Pancake Day and Mardi Gras for the same reason. Language is so fascinating to me.

Mardi Gras, French for "Fat Tuesday", is the last day of Carnival, which is a two week celebration before Lent begins. The biggest Carnival is held in Rio de Janeiro, Portuguese for "January River" (thus named because it was found by Portuguese explorers on January 20th, 1502).

Pancake Day is what today gets called in UK and Australia, because, apparently, it is common to eat pancakes on this day. And why is it common to eat pancakes? Because theoretically people are giving up "rich" foodstuffs such as eggs, milk, sugar and flour for the 40 days of Lent. So why not use up all those ingredients, and have a little last minute celebration at the same time? Hence pancakde day.

Also today is called Shrove Tuesday. "Shrove" is past tense of "Shrive". "Shrive" means to obtain absolution for one's sins by confessing and doing penance. It has been traditional, apparently, people used to shrive on Shrove Tuesday in preparation for lent. But this term is apparently not common or familiar in the U.S., whereas it *is* common in the U.K. and Australia

Other names: "Tuesday of Carnival", "Martes de Carnaval", "Terca-feira de Carnaval", "Terca-feira Gorda", "Martedi Grasso".

So in U.K., apparently, they have pancake races in which the contestants run to the finish line holding a frying pan and tossing the pancakes as they go.

anyway, doesn't one get the feeling of the ... Christian empire, as it were? Or perhaps the European Empires? Back in the day, Europe was colonizing everywhere, and the Christian church was very much tied in with that, so we get people all over the place doing their own iterations of "Last day before lent".

And don't you also get the feeling of the ... sense of the sacred, the sense of the numinous, that people used to have? It seems like the life of the church, the calender of the church, used to be much more intertwined with the life of the whole culture. People had a sense of connection with god and with each other that perhaps we now lack, now that ... all the old gods are dead, and all we are left with is modernism and scientism. I mean who really does any proper fasting during lent anymore? Who gets rid of all their eggs and flour and sugar and chooses to try to connect on purpose with the brokenness of the world and the brokenness of themselves for 40 days? We are much too busy and tuned out to do such a thing across the culture, and anyway, it would probably hurt the economy, and we can't have that. At one level we have an innate need to shrive, but it's more convenenient to watch 24, or blog. or maybe I'm just projecting, and most people do participate in these excercises , and I'm the only one who is so busy and so disconnected.

4 comments:

Kate said...

I understand that during lent in olden times most people were on a forced fast because in early spring the winter stores were running out. There was a 'hungry gap' until spring vegetables could grow and new young farm animals were born and had time to grow enough to eat. Hence Easter celebrated both the resurrection and the new burst of fertility (and food!) in spring.

Here in the colonised Southern Hemisphere both Lent and Spring are in Autumn which seems to undermine the point of the festival -- indeed, there seems very little sense in many of the religious festivals that are tied to the seasons -- another example is Halloween followed by All Saints Day, which happen here just as the weather is heating up and the days getting longer.

Kate said...

Sorry, typo. I meant Lent and Easter (not spring).

Susan Hawkins said...

I should of eatten pancakes today..Yikes I should keep a closer eye on the calander. Hey Listen I know your wife had issues with the leader of OM uruguay!!! I have news...The international leadership is pushing him out and finding a better leader!!! Hopefully this good news for Megan and yourself and Laurel!!! My Lj has pics from my trip to Uruguay..I just got back on Friday!! Take care....Hey Ben..If Megan wants people to comment on her Blog she may want to have the same as you have below!! Take Care Family...SUSAN

LP said...

first of all, i like the tags to this post. they are funny. like, do you blog about pancakes often?

"Who gets rid of all their eggs and flour and sugar and chooses to try to connect on purpose with the brokenness of the world and the brokenness of themselves for 40 days?"

i do. i mean, not those things particularly (you can read about what i decided to give up on my livejournal: laurelana-jones.livejournal.com ) but i've tried to get rid of/avoid things that i feel i have a habit of turning to for comfort... so far so good, but we'll see how it goes...