Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I'm full of pancakes, now what shall I give up for Lent?

Photo of St.Anne's Church Good Friday 2011
On Tuesday this week, the supermarkets of Ormskirk were filled with people stocking up on pancake mix, lemons, large frying pans and the like, all to mark Shrove Tuesday or perhaps better known by many as Pancake Day.  In other parts of the world they use the term "mardi gras".

Shrove Tuesday is the day which comes before Ash Wednesday; the first day in the Christian calendar of the period of Lent.  Traditionally the use of foods, such as sugar, fat, eggs and flour were restricted during Lent, so a great way to use them up was to make pancakes.  In some parts of the country, people celebrate by having pancake runs through their town. I especially think of Olney in Buckinghamshire, when I think of Pancake Runs.

However, after 'Pancake Day' comes Ash Wednesday.  For Christians, this is the day that marks the beginning of a journey through Lent to Easter, the most important period of the Christian year.  During Mass, at St. Anne's on Ash Wednesday, the congregation was told by Father Boniface that Lent is a time for reflection, repentance and prayer.

Although many people in Ormskirk might not consider themselves Christians and that this reflection, repentance and prayer isn't something they do, they will still out of habit, nominally observe some of the other Christian traditions associated with this time of year. One is Pancake day and another is "giving something up for Lent".

Some people might say "I don't believe in God" or "I don't do religion" and there are others, "non-practising Christians", who don't observe the other Lentern Christian rites and traditions.  Nevertheless, many of them will still "give something up for Lent"  Why?

Perhaps, just one bite....

Firstly, we go through the process of identifying what it is we should give up, secondly, why we should give it up and then thirdly, we hope that we have sufficient willpower to actually give it up.

Our choice could be eating chocolate, drinking coffee, alcohol or smoking.  Why do we encourage our children to do likewise?  We go through the same thought process with our kids and then encourage them to to stop arguing with their siblings or eating sweets, "....just until Easter"

Why do we do it?  Perhaps, it's because we somehow recognise that giving up something can actually be be good for us; good for our health, good for our relationships or perhaps just good for our pockets.

As was said earlier, this is a period of reflection, repentance and prayer.  Changing aspects of our lives for the better, whether you believe yourself to be a Christian or not, is in keeping with the period of Lent.

If you're interested on finding out more about the meaning of Lent, you can click here to read Pope Benedict XVI Catechesis (teaching) regarding Lent.

Do you have some community news to share or a story to tell? Yes! Please contact Life In Another Town


  1. fiona steele11:01

    Sort of agree with giving up something for Lent but would argue its only worth it if you combine it with something for others - give up chocolate/alcohol and put the money into a good cause for eg - otherwise you are just doing your body a favour by giving up.

  2. I agree, in the past it may have been presumed teaching to focus on the giving something up aspect of Lent. Giving alms and doing something positive, for example, as opposed to just giving something up, is a favourite Lentern theme of Father Boniface. However, in this instance I was just making a link between reflection, repentance and prayer and the "gving up something for Lent" that many people will still do at this time of year. If one does go through some reflection, repentance and prayer, I would have thought that there would, at least for most of us, be one aspect of our lives we would want to change and at at least one vice or sin that we woud want to stop doing completely.

  3. Anonymous16:58

    The reason in the past for not having eggs, flour, milk and sugar was to do with the Passover. When the Angle of death was to pass over the homes of non Jews in the middle of the night and kill every first born of man and beast. So the last meal was to be rushed and nothing left. Then they could go fast away and eat what they could find or that God would provide. So that is one of the reasons it still exists.

    We don't always have to give up something, we could do more instead. Like looking after the sick, old and young. Visiting hospitals, old people's and children's homes. Feeding the needy.