The name Mardi Gras means (in French) ‘fat Tuesday’ and the tradition of pre-Lent feasting is deeply embedded in Catholic tradition.
The tradition of pancakes comes from the idea of eating up the eggs, cream and milk before Lent begins.
‘Goodbye to meat!’ is the origin of the word ‘carnival’ which comes from the Latin word for meat and vale, ‘farewell’ or ‘goodbye’. The original carnival (carnivale) tradition was that of a pre-Lent celebration. The traditional idea of Carnival is that it is a time of fun which ends with solemnity; think of the old-style clown doll, always painted with a tear on his cheek. Think of the song, “The Carnival is Over”. Carnival ends with a sudden recognition that at midnight on Shrove Tuesday, Lent begins.
Lent is the forty-day period (don’t count Sundays) of renewal, penance and prayer that leads us to the great drama of Holy Week and Easter. The word Lent is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words lencten, meaning ‘Spring’ and lenctentid, which literally means not only "Springtide" but also was the word for ‘March’, the month in which the majority of Lent falls. In the southern hemisphere, of course, Lent falls largely in autumn.
In the Hebrew scriptures, Moses led the people of Israel for forty years in the desert. In the Christian scriptures, Christ spent forty days fasting and praying in the desert at the start of his public ministry.
An important aspect of Lent in Australia is Project Compassion, Caritas Australia’s annual appeal in solidarity with the world’s poor. Today the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle hosted a launch event for Project Compassion 2016. Read more about the launch here, or find out more about Project Compassion here.
Header image: Students enjoy pancakes at the Launch of Project Compassion.
Gallery images: Students at St Paul’s Gateshead enjoying pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.
(Above excerpt adapted from Joanna Bogle, A Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations Freedom Publishing 2007.)