Today is Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, or Carnivale, depending on where you live. It is a day for celebrating, eating pancakes (if you are English), and announcing the advent of Lent. So, why do people party so heartily before this holiday arrives?
To begin, let’s be honest, I could search the Bible until I turned green and I would find neither Christ nor his disciples celebrating Shrove Tuesday. It is a “holy day” that was probably created by the Church, has probably been around for centuries, and probably has some sort of ill will, corruption, or doctrinal error associated with it. Be that as it may, “holy days” remain useful tools for commemoration.
So what am I commemorating by observing Shrove Tuesday? A day of preparation. Personally, in practical terms, I make sure my plans for the Lenten season are solidified: my Bible study materials are set, my church attendance schedule is planned, and I am aware of special events and commitments that need my attention from February 21st-April 7th. Spiritually, I look back at Advent, the time of preparation for Christ’s birth, and I recognize that Shrove Tuesday marks the gateway to Lent, the time of preparation for Christ’s atoning death.
So why the grand celebrations? For centuries, Church tradition interpreted Lent as a time of deprivation. Parishioners were encouraged to “give something up,” usually meat, for the 40-day observance, an exercise intended (I suppose) to personalize the reality of sacrifice. If I suffer by sacrificing something for the duration of Lent, how much more did Christ suffer by sacrificing His life for an eternity? As often happens, though, what probably began as a theological activity to increase awareness, morphed into a requirement, and so and so on. If I know that I am expected to be serious, meditative, and deprived for forty days, I could be motivated to let off some steam before the entire episode begins; hence, the parties and celebrations of Fat Tuesday.
For the record, I don’t party on Shrove Tuesday. I eat pancakes for breakfast and make sure I am prepared for Christ’s journey to the cross. Lent begins tomorrow. Are you ready?
Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.