LENT has well and truly begun, and it goes for ages. Forty days in fact. I’ve had careers, relationships and pets that have all lasted nowhere near as long.
If you didn’t know, Lent is the period leading up to Easter, which involves Christians still into the whole religion thing giving up on something. It actually goes for 46 days, as the six Sundays are not counted as fasting days. You could’ve found out by counting the days until Easter, but nobody I know has ever bothered.
It all starts on Ash Wednesday, which is usually marked somewhere in Australia by bushfires. Or floods. Or both.
The day before is Shrove Tuesday. Shrove comes from the word “shrive” which means “absolve”. It’s meant to be a day of self-examination, with Christians considering what areas of personal growth they can ask God to give them a hand with. Alcoholics Anonymous call this same thing “meetings” and anyone with a therapist calls it “expensive”.
Also known as “Pancake Tuesday” the food stuff on Shrove Tuesday came about because some people fast during Lent because Jesus did it, so they decided that first they should feast. In the same way, anyone known for overindulging who’s about to give up will have one last big night out, to celebrate the poor choices and lack of self-control that led them to their problem.
By the by, the term “Mardi Gras” is actually French for “Fat Tuesday” and is all about partying and nothing to do with doing without, which makes sense to me. A party that celebrates by leaving all the good stuff out is no party at all, and is not called a “party” but “work”.
As with most things that involve indulging and Christianity, fat shrove pancake Tuesday or whatever it’s called has its roots in a pagan ritual. Which involved a fight with the evil spirits of darkness, cold and winter, and was won by eating pancakes that represented the sun. Meaning that for pagans, pancakes were a yummy, dripping, buttery ball of brilliantly bright death flame. Just as they are for anyone on a diet.
Wouldn’t it be great if more stuff in society could be fixed by eating delicious things? Who’s up for ending world poverty with a cake day? Or eating ice cream to end climate change?
Ash Wednesday’s name comes from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches put aside following the previous year’s Palm Sunday.
By the way, the word “Lent” comes from the Old English word Lenten, which means spring, and is another knowing nod to the pagans.
Nowhere in the bible does it explicitly say you should give up stuff or fast for Lent – not that I’ve read the whole thing, but according to those who claim to, that’s the truth of it. This means it’s an invented tradition, based on the theory that giving up stuff is good for the soul. Which just doesn’t sound right to me.
Have a week of doing with, and then doing without, and tell me which one you enjoy more. Maybe what we really need is 40 days of Mardi Gras.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian
Email me, if you dare: [email protected]
Then, don’t forget!
I’m coming to Mackay, Middlemount, Dysart & Moranbah in Queensland!
As part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival (from March 13 to 22) I’ll be performing two shows (all tix only $15):