Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A fats Tuesday

I didn’t know it at the time, but yesterday I took part in “Fat Tuesday”. It wasn’t planned, and I had no idea I’d done that until today. There are no surprises in any of that.

“Fat Tuesday” is another name for Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent, the six week (ish) period of fasting, penance, prayer, churchgoing, etc., that some Christians engage in during the run-up to Easter. Many of the practices relating to those events are thoroughly alien to me, none more so than another thing some people did yesterday: Pancake Day.

I’d never heard of “Pancake Day” until I moved to New Zealand. In fact, I know exactly when I first head of it: February 16, 2010. I know this because I blogged about it at the time (one of the many things I can look up because I’ve been blogging so long). However, it being so far outside my consciousness means that it never enters my mind until I’m again reminded of it. This year, I was reminded of more.

Yesterday’s post about grilled cheese sandwiches included a photo of the sandwiches I’d made for dinner that night. I posted that photo, and another, to my personal Facebook (screenshot, above left), and one of my friends commented, “Why not pancakes for Shrove Tuesday?” I was doubly stopped. First, I thought, “pancakes?!” remembered the connection with Shrove Tuesday, and then thought, “but that’s weeks away!”

The truth is, I do forget a lot of stuff these days, but forgetting about Pancake Day, which has no relevance to me personally, isn’t one of them: I simply have no reason (or desire…) to remember it. But I also was only vaguely aware of when Easter is this year, so I had to turn to Google to find out when Shrove Tuesday fell this year: I honestly had NO idea.

As I said back in 2010, growing up I paid little attention to Shrove Tuesday, and even Ash Wednesday wasn’t a huge deal, just the start of Lent. As Lutherans, we didn’t do the whole fasting thing, nor the “giving up something for Lent” thing that my Catholic friends did. It was just a very long lead-up to Easter, with themed church services on the Sundays, but nothing else to mark it for me.

However, as religion faded from my life, Easter also became unimportant—except as a four-day holiday weekend (both Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays in New Zealand). So, in light of all that, the fact that I had no idea when Shrove Tuesday or Ash Wednesday fell this year is no surprise whatsoever. On the other hand, I am glad that I was able to make all the mental connections fairly quickly.

Pancake Day itself appears to be a mainly English thing, as far as I can tell, which has travelled around the world with British expats. So, you'd think it would be common in New Zealand, but apparently it’s not at all common. I didn’t realise that anyone in New Zealand I know personally was even aware of “Pancake Day”, until today, and the comment on Facebook. Certainly no one close to me observes it, that much I’m sure of.

Similarly, as far as I know, I don’t have any close friends or relatives in New Zealand who take part in Lenten observances of any kind; if they do, they certainly don’t talk about it. The same is true for Good Friday and Easter Sunday—they’re just days in a holiday weekend. All of which makes perfect sense, since New Zealand is a firmly secular country, even if a bare majority call themselves Christian. That’s just another reason why this country suits me so well.

So, here we have a confluence of things: I made grilled cheese sandwiches on “Fat Tuesday”, but didn’t realise that’s what the day was because I was similarly completely unaware of when Lent was this year, and, in any case, it never was terribly important to me even as a religious child. Add to that the fact that I have no awareness of any of that at all these days because religion is now so utterly unimportant to me, and it’s obvious why yesterday was just a Tuesday for me. Granted, with all the butter and cheese, a “fats Tuesday”, maybe, but no more than that.

But, the fats on Tuesday tasted very good.


rogerogreen said...

Pancake dinners at churches are often the norm on Shrove Tuesday. There was one at the Presbyterian church up the street from ours.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

I remember pancake breakfasts at my dad's church, and I think it may even have been around Easter, but definitely on a Sunday morning. Other churches may have done them on Shrove Tuesday, but I never paid any attention to what other churches did—I only focused on my dad's ("the family business" as I still sometimes call it).