Today is Pancake Day! Or, Shrove Tuesday. So what is it actually for? As with most Christian festivals these days, the real meaning gets a little lost amongst the other, more decadent (fun) concerns. Shrove Tuesday, or mardi gras as it is known in French (meaning literally “fat Tuesday”), is the day of indulgence before Lent starts, which is the period of abstinence between now and Easter Sunday.
Typically around 40 days long, this period is one of religious self-flagellation (not literally…I don’t think), in which you are supposed to give up one vice until Easter. That is why typically back home people overindulge on pancake day, deprive themselves for 40 days, then overindulge again once Easter Sunday rolls along with all those chocolate Easter eggs rolling around alongside it.
This period of denial is supposed to correspond to the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert whilst being tempted by Satan. I suppose the equivalent these days would be endless adverts everywhere for chocolate, if that is what you have chosen to renounce. Other typical things to give up are smoking and alcohol, and even (though this probably only ever happens in fiction), sex.
So today I’ll be whipping up some pancakes for my housemates. Real, thick, English ones, too, none of this thin European crêpe business. They will be accompanied by generous lashings of butter, lemon and sugar (though not necessarily all at once), and devoured. This is the English way of celebrating Shrove Tuesday: fattening up, unlike in Brazil. Maybe we should consider shaking off some of the calories with some samba dancing, as they are doing at the carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Last year I tried and failed spectacularly to give up sugar. It’s a real challenge, 40 days! I have similarly lofty ambitions this year, but even I am not really deluded enough to think I can be successful, especially as my birthday falls in this period. Are you going to be giving something up for Lent this year, and if so, what?