Tuesday, 4 March 2014


“Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.” - Victor Hugo

Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday”, or “Pancake Tuesday” are alternative names for Shrove Tuesday, which this year falls on March 4. In most Western churches this is the last day of the pre-Lenten non-fasting period.  It was a day during which all remaining eggs, milk, butter and cheese in the house had to be consumed, hence the custom of making pancakes. It is also the last day before Lent for making merry, hence the Mardi Gras parades and fancy dress.

1          pint (≈ 470 mL) cream
6          fresh eggs
        pound  (≈ 114 g) sugar
1          nutmeg, grated
            flour to make a thin batter 

            some butter for frying

Beat well the cream and eggs together and add the sugar and nutmeg.  Add as much flour as will make a thin pancake batter. Be careful as not to add much flour.  Grease the hot pan with a little butter and wipe lightly with a cloth.  Spoon the batter so that the bottom of the pan is covered evenly and thinly. Fry the pancake well on one side and then toss quickly so that the other side is also a golden brown colour.  Serve with savoury or sweet fillings.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten fasting period in most Western churches, which this year falls on March 5. In the past, people who had sinned gravely were not allowed to take communion during Lent and had to prepare themselves all during Lent. They did this by wearing sackcloth and being sprinkled with ashes in the 40 days of Lent.  In the 9th century this practice began to die out, but priests retained the custom Ash Wednesday as a reminder of the need of penitence and repentance during Lent.  On Ash Wednesday, the priest takes some ashes and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the faithful.  The ashes are those of the palms that were used on Palm Sunday the previous year.  The ashes should remind the faithful that “they are but dust, and to dust they shall return.”

Beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting until Easter, the atmosphere in churches is very subdued, with minimal lighting being used. The statues and ikons are draped in purple and the priests also wear purple vestments. This is a colour symbolising penitence and sorrow, thus being in keeping with the Lenten period which reminds people of Christ’s sacrifice for them.
            Is this a Fast, to keep
            The larder lean and clean
            From fat of veals and sheeps?

            Is it to quit the dish
            Of flesh, yet still to fill
            The platter high with fish?

            No; ‘tis a Fast to dole
            Thy sheaf of wheat and meat
            Unto the hungry soul.

            It is to fast from strife
            From old debate and hate 

            To circumcise thy life.

Noble Numbers (1647); Robert Herrick (1591-1674)


  1. How interesting! Best of all was the quote you started with...

  2. I agree with BarbViel. We have become so pleasure-seeking and demand instant gratification day-in, day-out. We have made every day a carnival and thus a carnival is no longer a carnival. I look forward to Lent and giving up many of these daily pleasures. Easter will then be many times more enjoyable.