In yesterday’s post, I stressed the importance of taking time out of our busy lives to mark a day of fasting on Ash Wednesday. Given my stats yesterday evening and this morning, that post struck a chord with a few folks, and for that I am grateful, but truth be told, it was a little bit of putting the cart before the horse. Before we get to Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent, we first get to enjoy a feast. Today marks the final day of the Season after Epiphany. For my readers in areas of Germanic settlement, it is called by the redundant misnomber of “Fasnacht Day.” While there is a delicious donut called a Fasnacht, when the term is translated from German it actually means “Fast Night,” the night before the start of the Lenten Fast when the best foods are eaten, and lots of it, to empty your cupboards of fats and sweets. Shrove Tuesday, the traditional name in English settlements, means to be absolved of sins by way of confessing them. It seems that the tradition is to eat copious amounts of pancakes and go to confession in preparation for the penitential Season of Lent. It is in those places settled by Romance Language speakers that have the most fun, however. Carnival, or Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) as it is called in French/Cajun settled Mobile and New Orleans, is a whole season of food, drink, dancing, and parades leading up to a day of excess, Fat Tuesday, and the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
Americans are really good at excess. We use any excuse we can find to drink or eat too much. We do it up for New Years, the Super Bowl, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thankgiving, and don’t get me started on Christmas. It all seems to be too much. And yet, these days of feasting and celebration are important. When done properly, they are an opportunity to remember and be thankful for all the many gifts God has given us. We’re grateful for a plentiful harvest, for sugar and oil in the cupboards, for the gift of a new year, for the freedoms we enjoy, and for the blessings poured out through God’s plan of salvation. We feast in order to prepare for the fast, and that is a good thing, or as the English might say, it is meet and right so to do.
So live it up. Enjoy the day. Celebrate responsibly. We’ll confess our sins tomorrow. Today, let’s give thanks for the gifts God has given us.