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Fat Tuesday

February 21, 2007

So today was Fat Tuesday. Just in case I wasn’t sure of this, all the bars on the way to church tonight were unusually packed… at least for a Tuesday. Ironically enough, though, I was on my way to church to celebrate Fat Tuesday as well. In our culture, Fat Tuesday is widely known as a huge party day – Marti Gras – when people go bar hopping, get loaded, and make fools of themselves… usually for beads.  But what exactly is the origin of this day?

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. When Jesus was preparing for His ministry, he went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days. The church historically remembers this event during the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. Lent is a solemn period in the church’s calendar – a time of sober reflection, a time to focus on the seriousness of sin in our lives and do something about it. This usually includes fasting from something in order to help you turn to God for His all-sufficient strength. Over the next few days I will post more on the meaning of Lent, and some of the unique practices associated with it, but tonight I want to show the relation between Lent and Fat Tuesday.

Since Lent is historically characterized by fasting, Fat Tuesday (or Shrove Tuesday, as the church calls it) was a day of feasting… gearing up for Lent. As a church function, it was designed to be a celebration – the last day of Epiphany (when the church celebrates the revelation of Christ to the world, especially His ascension). It was not a gluttonus day, but it was a feast. One of the traditions was that the church would gather together on Tuesday night and have a pancake dinner – I’m not quite sure how that started, but I like it!

Unfortunately, like many other Christian celebrations, it has been perverted by the pagan culture and turned into Fat Tuesday. I have no problem with the name “Fat Tuesday” (Carnival is another name that is used), nor with the party spirit of the holiday. The perversion comes in the legalistic mindset behind the celebration. Because Lent was seen as a burden or chore that had to be done, Shrove Tuesday was the last chance to “enjoy life for a while.” Historically, abstaining from meat and wine was the norm during Lent, so Fat Tuesday became a day for pigging out on meat and getting drunk on wine. Of course, today, many people who “celebrate” Fat Tuesday do not celebrate Lent.

Fat Tuesday  – along with holidays such as Halloween – are historically Christian celebrations… its easy to forget this in today’s culture. Instead of ignoring these holidays, we need to recover them and celebrate them properly – to the glory of God. I know I did my part – I had 5 pancakes.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. K. Staggs permalink
    February 21, 2007 7:12 pm

    I usually give up picking my belly button for lent. 🙂

  2. John Super permalink
    February 23, 2007 5:16 am

    I am fasting from coffee and tobacco, in no particular order.

  3. February 24, 2007 1:41 am

    It’s a shame there’s not a holiday, then, for boogers.

  4. February 24, 2007 1:46 am

    Wow, you’re going to be rather twitchy for the next 40 days.
    BTW, I posted on Gabe’s blog… on his initial review of the baptism book.

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