Happy Mardi Gras! It is a fat Tuesday indeed.
My class was cancelled this morning due to the ice storm that has hit Nashville and made for hazardous driving conditions. So, in honor of the day, Stephan and I made pancakes for breakfast.
And I got to wondering, where does the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday come from? Does it originate from all the pancake breakfasts and dinners held in churches all over the country on this day? Is it simply about getting fat before Lent? Or is there more to it?
I went to Wikipedia. Turns out, the practice of eating pancakes dates back to before the Christian era. Wikipedia says that the pagan Slavs believed the gods were fighting in the time between winter and spring, and it was their job to help the god Jarilo win in the battle to bring back spring. So they ate pancakes because they symbolize the sun and warmth. Isn’t that interesting?
So we as Christians, like we do with so many of our holidays, have sort of made this one our own. We eat pancakes following the tradition of “Fat Tuesday,” or the time we indulge ourselves in fatty foods in preparation for the fasting of the Lenten journey. The word “shrove” comes from “shrive” which means to confess, or prepare for repentance, which is what Lent is all about. So on Shrove Tuesday, we over-indulge ourselves, eat pancakes, and prepare for our journey of fasting and repentance.
When I got to work this afternoon (the roads had thawed enough for me to get in), the pastoral care department was also celebrating the day with red beans and rice and a big fat King Cake. It even had the baby inside! For anyone who doesn’t know, the little plastic baby is supposed to be baby Jesus, and whoever finds the baby in their slice of cake is responsible for buying the next year’s cake. These practices are traditional to New Orleans Mardi Gras. As one of our priests was born and raised in New Orleans, he was our judge for authenticity. He said we passed.Then we listened to traditional Mardi Gras music from New Orleans to celebrate this special day.
And now I’m in my office trying to prepare for my Ash Wednesday service tomorrow morning. This will be the first time I’ve been the one imposing the ashes. I’m very excited about it, but also nervous. But it’s just another chance for me to grow in my pastoral identity! So I’m working on this service and I’m thinking about my own preparations for Lent. We’re all getting ready for a journey towards Jerusalem. As I turn toward Jerusalem, as Jesus did, leaning into the darkness of the unknown, preparing for the suffering and sadness ahead, I have to ask myself: What can I do to help me on the way?
The practice of giving up something for Lent is something I’ve been familiar with for as long as I can remember, even if I haven’t always participated in it. In the past I’ve given up swearing, fried food, and chocolate. I’ve also committed to adding in spiritual practices, like daily devotionals or meditation, which honestly have mostly been complete failures. So what to do this time around?
I’ve been thinking about my body a lot lately. I’m slow. I’m sluggish. I’m tired. I’m resistant to movement. I’m Netflix obsessed. I think part of my Lenten journey will consist of eating better, more nutritious foods, and stretching my body to do things it’s not used to doing, like jogging, and yoga, and dancing. And with every sore muscle I will think about how I’m strengthening myself for the journey.
Now I really have to finish this service.
Happy Mardi Gras to you and yours. Let it be. Amen.