Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fat Tuesday, Pancakes, and those Easter Eggs

I did a little research on Fat Tuesday and came away with some very interesting and cool facts about this aspect of our faith concerning Fat Tuesday, Lent, Easter Eggs, and much more... Seven Fun Catholic Facts: 1. Why is it called Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday)? Originally during Lent Christians abstained from eating eggs and fat for 40 days (in addition from abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and Friday’s). So leading up to Ash Wednesday Christians would eat all of their stored supplies of eggs & fat so that they wouldn’t spoil as well as to get a last taste before fasting. Hence, ‘Fat Tuesday’. Or in French ‘Mardi Gras’. 2. Why is the time leading up to Lent called ‘Carnival’ in Latin America, southern Europe, and the Spanish and French speaking world? Despite what you may think of the meaning of ‘Carnival’, it is derived from Latin meaning “taking away of flesh” or “carne levare”. Or as it later became, ‘Carnival’. 3. What about here in the United States? Why don’t we celebrate or call it ‘Carnival’? In northern Europe, the United Kingdom, the U.S., parts of Canada, and the rest of the English speaking world it is called ‘Shrovetide’. The English term "shrovetide" (from "to shrive", or hear confessions) is sufficiently explained by a sentence in the Anglo-Saxon "Ecclesiastical Institutes" translated from Theodulphus by Abbot Aelfric about 1000 A.D.: "In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then my hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]". 4. Want to know how or why pancakes were invented? The English custom of eating pancakes was undoubtedly suggested by the need of using up the eggs and fat which were, originally at least, prohibited articles of diet during the forty days of Lent. 5. This brings us to Easter Eggs… The same prohibition (from eggs) is, of course, mainly responsible for the association of eggs with the Easter festival at the other end of Lent. Hence those Easter eggs we like to color and have Easter egg hunts with. 6. Is it really forty days, I counted more than 40 days on the liturgical calendar? Yes. For Catholics it is exactly forty days starting on Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday after you eliminate all the Sundays. Remember, Sunday is a day of rest from work as well as from fasting, but many Christians still like to keep fasting on Sunday. 7. And finally, the final fun fact of the day… …40 days represents a tithe of the year - rounding up, it is a little more than 10% of 365 (or 366!) days for the year. In a special way, we are offering a tithe of our year during this season. (Biretta Tips: New Advent & Per Christum)


liturgy said...

Thanks for this post.

My take on the eggs is slightly different.
In Northern Hemisphere Spring if you as a farmer are going to have chickens - YOU HAVE TO STOP EATING THE EGGS!!! So you can start eating them again Easter time...
We in the Southern Hemisphere have to translate all this into a different context:

Tito said...


Thanks for that bit of information.


Anonymous said...

I thought "Carnival" could also have been derived from "carne" meat and "vale" goodbye...Lent= goodbye to meat :)

japhy said...

On liturgy's comment about the southern hemisphere... I keep thinking that's the only flaw in God's grand design, that the southern hemisphere has the seasons at a different time than the northern. I've never experienced a Christmas apart from the winter solstice, nor an Easter near the autumnal equinox!

Tito said...


I'm not a Latin professor or scholar, but I'm sure your version of the meaning behind Carnival may be true as well.

Thanks for sharing, I love learning as much as I can about Latin.

Anonymous said...

Per your number six, the liturgical count of 40 runs from the First Sunday of Lent to sundown on Holy Thursday, inclusive of Sundays. Holy Thursday evening is not part of liturgical Lent, and the fast for the Easter Triduum (Good Friday and Holy Saturday) is paschal, not penitential or Lenten.

Lent is also about praying, so it seems appropriate to include Sundays in that effort. If we saw almsgiving as an act of praise and thanksgiving as well as sacrifice, it seems also appropriate for Sunday as well.

Lots of Catholics find a certain relief in the first four "purple" days. If you mess up, you can get a do-over and still get in forty days, no problem.


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