This year, I actually eagerly awaited Lent as if it were Christmas. Liturgical eating is a new interest of mine which developed during Advent and grew through Epiphany when I ordered a couple of books on eating throughout the Christian calendar. And so, I was excited for Lent to come around so that I could begin living into this season through the food that I prepared.
A Book of Feasts and Seasons (by Joanna Bogle) was one of the books that I bought. I was fascinated to learn here that Shrove Tuesday (also called Shrovetide, Pancake Day, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, and Carnival) began as a way for households to consume all of the the eggs and milk products in a pancake feast to prepare for lent, when they would fast from all animal products. (All meat products were generally consumed the day before–Collop Monday–and the fat from this was used in cooking the pancakes.) Apparently, the word “Carnival” actually comes from the Latin words for goodbye and meat. And so, while celebrating with this feast, Christians were actually preparing to say “goodbye to meat.”
Shrove Tuesday is also about asking forgiveness of sins (the word “shrive” means to confess sins and pronounce penance or absolution). On this day, in pre-reformation England, folks would line up at the church for confession and pancakes–a mindful celebration marking the solemn season that follows.
On this Tuesday evening, my husband and I had a small pancake celebration. Being vegetarian and having a mild allergy to eggs, I was excited to learn that I am already naturally following the diet most Christians followed during this time of fasting. I had thought about eating a completely vegan diet for these forty days, but could not bare to part with my butter and cheese (I currently lack this degree of discipline!) We’ve chosen instead to give up creating garbage–or produce as little as possible. As a result, we’ve found ourselves buying fewer packaged goods, composting more, and reusing many little items we might otherwise have thrown away. This may be a far cry from the fasting our forefathers did, but at least it is a start in living into this season.