Truth: Even though I technically grew up "Catholic," I never really understood the whole point of Lent. It's only been in the last year or two I've really started to "get it."
Truth: Before a coulpe of weeks ago I had never heard the words 'Shrove Tuesday' uttered anywhere.
Truth: I've never really gotten the whole 'Mardi Gras' thing. It always sounded like an insane party I wanted nothing to do with. Turns out it has something to do with Lent????
So, here's what I learned yesterday...
Lent runs from Ash Wednesday to Easter. (That I knew before.) It lasts forty days not counting Sundays (new factoid for me!). It is meant to be a reminder of Jesus' forty days in the desert, and it was used to help people prepare for Baptism through fasting (hence the "giving something up during Lent" idea) because Baptisms used to take place on Easter. Lent is, in essence, about really focusing on God. Today, some people still give up things, but it's also becoming common to "add things" during this time. Of course, when you choose to sacrifice something, it shouldn't be something you don't want anyway. God would not be impressed if I gave up bananas for lent since I hate them anyway. And, on the flip side, when choosing to add something, it shouldn't be for selfish reasons, but should be something that is going to help yourself and others focus more on God. I, for instance, am adding in prayer time since I'm the laziest intentional prayer known to man.
Now about this 'Shrove Tuesday' thing.... The first time I heard our Pastor mention Shrove Tuesday it was in conjunction with the words 'pancakes' and 'church dinner.' My immediate reaction was...Pancakes - Yum! Church dinner - No cooking! No dishes! I quickly got lost in fantasies involving syrup and a kitchen that stayed clean for an entire night and I kinda missed the rest of what he had to say on the issue... Ooops....
Good thing that at our Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner last night they passed out these little factoid sheets. Here's what it had to say about 'Shrove Tuesday':
The day before Lent. 'Shrove' comes from 'shrive,' meaning to confess. People were enouraged to say sorry to God before the start of Lent. Traditionally, it was also a day to prepare for the Lenten fast by using up all the rich food in the house - particularly butter and eggs - which has led to the tradition of having pancakes on this day.
Okay, so that explained the point. And the pancakes. But what in the world was the connection to 'Mardi Gras.' Seriously, when I hear the words 'mardi gras' I think drunken beer fest. I do not think church, Lent, Jesus, Easter. Turns out that in many places around the world (Brazil being the example the factoid sheet used) hold (or used to hold anyway - I'm not too sure on the upkeep of this tradition) carnivals on Shrove Tuesday. It was meant to be a day of fun and celebration. I guess somewhere along the line of history someone took a little Shrove Tuesday carnival (Mardi Gras) a little too far and lost the true meaning and purpose behind the day?
Anyway, so here's the shortened verstion:
Shrove Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardi Gras) = pancakes/carnival = the day before Lent begins = time to draw closer to God
So, anyway, back to my church and our Shrove Tuesday kick off. It was last night. And at our church, obviously. A bunch of us all got together, flipped and ate pancakes, and in general, just enjoyed each others company. This worked out great since the day's activity in our Love Life Live Lent books was in fact "celebrate more" and they even suggested making pancakes! Logan was so excited to be at church with his friends that he barely managed to swallow down one pancake before he was off and running with the other kids. Gavin, on the other hand, really enjoyed eating his pancakes. In particular, he enjoyed the orange juice. He kept asking "More juice?" At first I said yes. By his third glass I started saying no (I was not changing wet sheets due to a leaky diaper people). He quickly figured out that he didn't need to ask me, but that he just needed to charm someone standing by the juice table... Oh boy...
Over all, it was a fun night full of laughter and learning (for me anyway, obviously). I'm really looking forward to our Ash Wednesday service tonight and then getting started on some of the daily activities planned out for us through this period of Lent! In fact, I'm so excited about it, that I'm going to try and document it each day right here on my blog (hence this long post on Lent/Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras).