Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), a day to eat and eat and eat, prior to the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, when, of course, we will all fast all day long ... right?
Many cultures have ways of celebrating this last moment before six weeks of fasting and abstinence. In Brazil and the Caribbean, there is Carnival, with parades and partying in a very serious fashion. Mardi Gras in New Orleans also taps the party spirit with its parades, and multicolored King Cake (with a variety of small charms baked inside to bring the finders an assortment of luck in the years ahead).
But for those of us from Northern European cultures, the key element of Fat Tuesday seems to be fried food ... paczki, a deep-fried jelly donut from Poland ... faschnacht, a deep-fried donut from Germany ... or pancakes.
The tradition was to use up all the fat, butter and sugar in the home prior to the fast of Lent. Apparently, all these cold-weather cultures decided donuts and pancakes was the most efficient way to do that. This has led to strange manifestations in our culture ... National Pancake Day at IHOP tomorrow, and the appearance of paczki in all our local groceries.
But the most important cultural manifestation from our perspective is the annual Church Pancake Supper. We will celebrate our Fat Tuesday tradition at All Saints at 6 p.m. tomorrow in the undercroft with more pancakes than you can cram into your face ... also activities for the children and the burning of last year's palm branches to make this year's ashes for Ash Wednesday.
Come and pig out with us tomorrow. And don't eat too many paczki, or you won't have room for pancakes!