Parades, customs and food are all enjoyed before the fasting begins.
Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday which is the day before Ash Wednesday and the first day of lent. Lent is 40 days (not including Sundays) before Easter and a time for prayer and repentance. Lent is not mentioned in the Bible and not all Christian denominations commemorate it. It began in the Catholic churches but in the 1960s and 70s some Protestant churches added this day to their church calendars.
The idea of fasting was and is a part of Lent. In Medieval Europe, people were told they had to eliminate eggs, fats, meat and dairy by the local priests. This was based on the 40 days Jesus fasted before he began his ministry. Today people will eliminate food from their diet or add a healthy practice such as exercise. Many pastors encourage spending more time in prayer and reading the Bible.
In the minds of many, Tuesday is their last chance to have fun and perhaps devour a pan of chocolate brownies. (Not that I can relate to that!) Pancakes and crepes were the first food to become a traditional Shrove Tuesday treat because people had to use the ingredients before Lent began. The German traditional food is Fastnachts which are doughnuts and Paczkis are a Polish jelly filled doughnut. The King Cake is a traditional Mardi Gras treat. It is made in early January to be eaten on Epiphany (January 6) in celebration of the three kings arriving in Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. It is made up until Lent. A small plastic baby is placed inside the cake and whoever gets it in their piece of cake will have prosperity. The cakes all are covered with sprinkles. The purple represents power, yellow-justice and green faith.
I was in Germany as a teacher chaperone several years ago and was shown pictures of people in costumes. I asked if this was Halloween. I was told not many people celebrated Halloween and this was their Mardi Gras. Costumes, parades and lots of food. It sure looked like Halloween!
There is so much unrest in the world but religious traditions unite us. Churches will be filled on Ash Wednesday and people will receive ashes on their foreheads. Ashes were used as a sign of repentance in the Old Testament. People wore sack cloth and covered themselves with ashes and asked for God’s forgiveness. People will try to grow closer to God during Lent and will give up unhealthy habits. I usually struggle the first two weeks with my Lenten choices, but then it becomes easier. Good luck to all of you who plan on doing something special during lent. I think God must look forward to this time when so many find time for Him.