This evening we’ve been invited next door for crepes – just a day late – it’s Cendres (Ash Wednesday) today; yesterday was Mardi-gras, Carnaval, or Pancake Day.
Strange the names and customs for the start of lent. Carnival goes back to the latin – “farewell to meat” – but means so much more these days. There have been carnival clothes available in the shops for weeks now, and many “carnivals” particularly involving children at the end of their spring holiday locally. And of course, the great “carnivals” in Venice and other Italian towns and cities.
Then again the Spanish and South American traditions of Mardi-gras or “fat tuesday” as seen in the Carnival celebrations in Rio and other places.
The English affair is a little tame – Pancake Tuesday compares poorly with Carnival and Mardi-gras, and perhaps reflects the Puritan influence of “Shrove Tuesday”, the traditional English name which refers to being ‘shriven’ or confessed and forgiven one’s sins.
One could be forgiven for thinking that these are a reflection of pagan spring festivals rather than the approach of the penitential season of Lent. Especially on such a day as today when the sun is shining, the spring flowers in bloom, the catkins on the trees, the birds are singing (we are of course well past St. Valentine now!). Such a contrast from our last few postings of just a fortnight ago. Is spring here at last? Do we have a good summer to look forward to?
“Hope springs eternal…” !!!