Today is Valentines Day but you’ve only got seven more days to eat all those heart shaped chocolates because next Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday – the day that announces the imminence of Lent and last chance to enjoy all those goodies and sweets you most crave.
Wednesday 22 February is the beginning of Lent; the famous or infamous time of fasting and self denial that begins with Ash Wednesday. The day before, more popular as 'Pancake Tuesday', is named in the Church calendar as ‘Shrove’ Tuesday - traditionally your last chance to enjoy all the pleasures you crave but will faithfully go without for the next 40 days. Well, that's the tradition isn't it?
Pancake Tuesday is a happy day…
Yes, perhaps. But if you're a follower of the Orthodox traditions (depending exactly which one), then not just yet. Because of differences between the Western 'Gregorian' and Eastern 'Julian' religious calendars, Easern Christians have a whole extra week before their particular Pancake Sunday. But for most of us, there are just seven days left to enjoy the fat, meat, sugar, flour and eggs traditionally given up for Lent.
The traditional way of dealing with any such luxuries still in the house was to eat it. Though in bygone times there wouldn’t be much of that, not coming out of a long hard winter with only the faintest glimmers of spring in sight. The days before Lent became a time of feasting and merrymaking with Shrove Tuesday as the last hurrah.
Not just a celebration of food and consumption, Shrove Tuesday was a time of festival, carnival, sports and unruly games. The world famous Mardi-Gras festival of New Orleans gets its name from the French words for ‘Fat Tuesday’. Like so many Christian feasts and festivals, Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras are at least in part a Christian conversion of much older Pagan traditions.
Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras and Lupercalia
Circuses and feasting marked the Roman celebration of ‘Lupercalia’. The Roman equivalent of the Greek Pan, Lupercus was a part human part beast fertility God. Lupercalia celebrations involved youths running through the city naked but for strips of skin from sacrificed goats. Women tried to get in their way believing that to be whipped by these virile wolf-gods would help them in getting pregnant.
Pope Gelasius abolished the festival of Lupercalia about 490AD. Apart from the feasting and the date, about the only tradition to survive from the Roman rite is the ritual smearing on the foreheads of religious devotees. However, in Christian times it’s more usual to use the ash from last year's burned Palm Sunday crosses than the blood of sacrificed goats.
Properly called Shrove Tuesday, this is the traditional day of preparation and prayer before the 40 day fast of Lent. Removing the temptation of fast-breaking flour, sugar and dairy produce fried up in any remaining fat is the outward expression of the inward spiritual preparation of confession and cleasning called ‘shriving’.
Pancake Tuesday: The Trivia Files
In England, many towns held traditional Shrove Tuesday ‘mob football’ games. Dating from the 12th century, the practice mostly died out in the 19th century when the 1835 Highway Act banned football on public highways. A number of towns still maintain the tradition notably, Ashbourne in Derbyshire played between the Up’Ards and Down’Ards through the town and even in the river.
The fat for 'Fat Tuesday' came from the meat cooked up into a 'collop' on the Monday before Shrove Tuesday. Collop Monday was the tradtional day for eating left over meat - mostly salted bacon from the winter, with eggs and eaten for breakfast. In Cornwall this Collop Monday is known as Peasen Night when pea soup is served instead of meat.
Quick Guide to Crave - by Lysa TerKeurst
Traditions such as Pancake Tuesday, Mardi Gras and even Luercalia satisfy a basic human craving to feast and celebrate - especially with hard times just around the corner. Most of the time craving is good, we’re made to crave - but for the right things. But sometimes we need to be the master of our cravings, not the other way around.
In Lysa TerKeurst's 'Crave' you'll find a practical guide to help you:
- Break the cycle of “I’ll start again on Monday,” and feel good about yourself today.
- Stop agonising over numbers on the scale and make peace with your body.
- Replace rationalisation that leads to diet failure with wisdom that leads to victory.
- Reach your healthy goals and grow closer to God.
Lysa TerKeurst's 'Crave' doesn't condemn craving, but doesn't let you to give in either. Instead, craving is carefully redirected to satisfying a greater and more important want than ‘just one more biscuit’... it encourages your inbuilt craving for God’s presence.
February 14th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison