Just another Tuesday for me

I guess it is Mar­di Gras again. Or Fat Tues­day in the ver­nac­u­lar, or even Shrove Tues­day if we are feel­ing fan­cy. Whoop.

I did­n’t find out about Fat Tues­day until I was well into my teens, so I sup­pose it is fair to say that not hav­ing grown up with it, I am not pre­dis­posed to find any­thing com­pelling about this par­tic­u­lar tra­di­tion. I guess I get it, but I still don’t see the point. Peo­ple need an anti-Lent before they can enter into the spir­it of Lent itself? How is that sup­posed to work, exactly?

And then last year in Ottawa I was bemused to learn of Pan­cake Tues­day, which is appar­ent­ly a wide­spread phe­nom­e­non (I ini­tial­ly took it to be yet anoth­er pecu­liar Cana­di­an cus­tom, or per­haps an obscure Angli­can one — this being my first time mix­ing with either group, I fre­quent­ly con­flate the two just to con­tain my baf­fle­ment.) But no: it is yet anoth­er tra­di­tion of pre-Lenten bel­ly-fill­ing that I had appar­ent­ly missed out on up to now.

Here’s my main beef (pun sur­pris­ing­ly unin­tend­ed): Lent is a won­der­ful, chal­leng­ing sea­son of self-exam­i­na­tion, of re-com­mit­ment to ardent prac­tice of the faith, and repen­tance for habits that we have allowed to dis­tract us from our bap­tismal call. Print­ing new menus for our­selves is so not the most essen­tial part of that project. I might even go so far as to ques­tion whether it is essen­tial at all, but that may be just me. But assum­ing our plates are going to look appre­cia­bly bleak­er for the next forty non-Sun­days, I still don’t think it makes any sense to pile them fuller with any­thing — pan­cakes or King Cake — the day before. If you are going to do Lent, then just do it. 

I under­stand the his­tor­i­cal ori­gins of most of this: the occa­sion to clean the pantry of all the rich­er foods that would go bad if left neglect­ed from Ash Wednes­day until East­er. But from my obser­va­tion I don’t real­ly see that being the dri­ving force for most peo­ple any­more; it has become a tra­di­tion for the sake of itself. And to me, Fat Tues­day as it is cel­e­brat­ed cur­rent­ly is not all that much dif­fer­ent than hir­ing a strip­per or pros­ti­tute for the groom-to-be at a bach­e­lor par­ty. We should­n’t need to delib­er­ate­ly binge in order to mean­ing­ful­ly purge; our lives are glut­ted enough just as they are, and we all have plen­ty of room to work on our inte­ri­or life for many Lents to come. I, for one, don’t think church-base­ment flap­jack feeds or bead-draped debauch­ery should be required to give max­i­mum con­trast to the somber days of penance to follow.