Lent on the 'net
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Date: Updated 2014

 

 

'In the village of Olney in Buckinghamshire, the tradition of pancake racing - said to have started when a woman was late for church and ran with her pan to get there on time - is believed to date back to 1445.'

Andrew Chapman looks at Lent on the net.

Shrove Tuesday is a time of both celebration and denial.

Many people don't realise Shrove Tuesday is actually part of what, in England, was traditionally a four-day festival.

Shrove or Egg Saturday; Shrove Sunday or Quinquagesima; Collop Monday (collops were slices of salted, dried meat eaten in the north of England - thus this was the last opportunity to eat flesh before the fast period; and Shrove Tuesday, from the practice of 'shriving' or penitence for sins.

In other words, a period of gluttony, and then one of purging.

In French culture, and in places influenced by France such as New Orleans, Shrove Tuesday is known as Mardi Gras ('fat Tuesday') - although this term has often been broadened to cover any modern carnival.

In England, Shrove Tuesday is also Pancake Day - eating eggs and fat was another crucial dietary boost before the fast of Lent.

Many customs, such as playing pranks, are notably similar to those at Hallowe'en.

In the village of Olney in Buckinghamshire, the tradition of pancake racing - said to have started when a woman was late for church and ran with her pan to get there on time - is believed to date back to 1445.

Since 1950, the Olney race has had overseas competition from its 'pancake race twin town' of Liberal in Kansas, USA. The towns compare the times of the winners from the main pancake flipping race and the town with the fastest winner wins! 2009 marks the 60th anniversary of the international race.

A number of English towns traditionally play football on Shrove Tuesday, too.

Further afield, this period is also known as carnivale - the word actually means 'farewell to meat'. The most famous carnivals are probably those of Venice, where thousands of people fill the streets wearing masks, and Rio de Janeiro, famed for its huge parades.

But other countries across the world celebrate at this time, too, including Germany, Spain and the Dominican Republic.

But after all this freedom and frivolity comes a time for more serious reflection.

Immediately following Shrove Tuesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

It is a day to reflect on mortality, symbolised in Christian tradition by wearing a cross of ash on the forehead.

Lent itself is a time for self-denial and also rebirth through the renewal this offers. It has been observed since the fourth century. Eastern and western churches count the 40-day period differently.

Pancake recipes