Or Carnival. Either way, it’s the day before Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of Lent in the Christian liturgical year. This is the traditional day to confess one’s sins before Lent, hence the Shrove, derived from Shriven as in being shriven of one’s sins. Carnival, or carne vale, on the other hand, is a festival of the upside down. It means ‘farewell to meat” and was a traditional day to use up all the meat, butter, flour, eggs, etc. that had been stored for the winter. Stuff would go rancid otherwise. Funny how lots of religious traditions are also practical but that’s another discussion. So lots of meat, pancakes dripping with butter, and whatever else you could think of to use up all the stores. Nowadays, it’s traditional to have pancakes and sausages for dinner, which is what we are going to have. Even if I did have to go to the grocery store to get the ingredients.
Carnival was also the day a peasant was elevated to Lord of Misrule and everyone had to do whatever he said. Now, of course, it’s a drunken bacchanalia of exposed breasts, tossed beads, painted coconuts from the Zulu Crew in New Orleans, fights, and arrests. If everyone was going to enter Lent tomorrow, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Carnival was meant to be a time to blow off steam, gorge oneself, and generally get it out of your system before the austerity of Lent. But most people will not enter Lent and will not take on a discipline of any sort. This, to me, is sad.
This country is in the state it is in because we are not disciplined people who understand the need to make sacrifices before there is no other choice. We don’t send our own sons to war (well, I did…my son-in-law has done three tours in Iraq), we don’t save our money, we don’t even drive cars that don’t pollute although they are readily available. We extend ourselves financially without considering the possibility that things may not always be so rosy. Hell, we even elected Bush twice although anyone who did their homework knew the man was a liar and a fool. Then reality hits and suddenly we are forced into doing what we would not have done voluntarily.
Lent is a time to reflect, pray, and give up (or in some cases take on) a discipline until the great feast of Easter. Anyone who has ever saved pennies for a special purchase knows the sweet feeling of finally being able to have one’s desire. And we do this voluntarily, not because we have to but because we hope it will benefit our soul. Lent is a season of sacrifice so that the celebration can be all the more joyous.
More tomorrow, when it all starts for real. Right now, go get those pancakes and have fun. For tomorrow we fast.