Mardi Gras, Pancakes and Lent

Everyone knows about Mardi Gras, right?? Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is a big party that consumes the city of New Orleans as well as many other metropoles across the nation and around the world.? Rio’s Carnaval makes New Orleans’ version look tame.? Now you probably have seen more in movies and on TV and can get a lot more online about these than I can write here, so I’ll only talk a little about the Mardi Gras parade in the thriving metropolis of Nevada City (although on Sunday rather than Tuesday to attract out of town visitors) and Shrove Tuesday on the Isle of Man, where I lived for five years.? Well, I admit that calling Nevada City (population 3068 in 2010) a metropolis is pushing the envelope, but it does do its best to have a “really big show.”? The parade has marching bands, jugglers and brightly masked, costumed participants.? Bead tossing has been curtailed (but not completely stopped)? due to possible injuries and damage to property, but cheap and garish plastic beads abound in emulation of the slightly larger New Orleans affair.? And, of course, adult beverages.? However, the emphasis in Nevada City is on being a family-friendly event rather than the wild bacchanalia you find in New Orleans or Rio.? For more on the Nevada City event, click here.

So what does all this have to do with pancakes?? A lot.? In many Anglican churches throughout the Western world, there is a Tuesday night dinner of pancakes.? The whole reason for Fat Tuesday and Shrove Tuesday (click for more info) is the same: get rid of all those tempting goodies before entering into the 40 days of Lent, the time when denominations like the Anglicans, the Roman Catholics and the Lutherans give up something like desserts, alcohol or some other such essential part of life in preparation for Easter.? In fact, shove is the past tense of an old English word shrive, which means confession, penance, and absolution.? No, this is no sermon, but if you want Mardis Gras, Shrove Tuesday and Lent to tie together, bear with me.? Mardi Gras is French.? Shrove Tuesday is English.? Now get ready for wild exaggerations and generalizations that may possibly have a wee bit of truth.

When the French dispose of temptation, they do it by partying until the temptations are consumed or they are too wiped out to care if any are left.? The British sit around in church and eat pancakes.? Now I am British and, to my knowledge and according to my DNA test, have no French blood, so you know this is not a slam on the Brits.? In fact, nine months later, while French past revelers are going through paternity suits and divorces for a night they were too drunk to remember, the Brit’s are sitting by the fire with a cuppa tea.? But lets return to the day after Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday: Ash Wednesday. (Click for more info)

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent.the time before Easter when you give up something you like in order to experience a little of the deprivation Jesus felt during his 40 days in the wilderness.? So on Wednesday, the Brits go to church (at least those who do) with a full stomach and no sweets in the house while the French go to church (at least those who do) with a hangover, no memory of the night before and a diminished stock of booze.? And that’s the simplified version of the connection between Mardi Gras, pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and Lent.


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