by Lesego Zikhali

How about we make “Fat Tuesday” fun this year as we look forward to the beginning of Lent with Ash Wednesday! Shrove Tuesday, also known as ‘Pancake Tuesday’ or ‘Pancake Day’ is the day in February or March immediately preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, which is celebrated in some countries by consuming pancakes. In others, especially those where it is called ‘Mardi Gras’ or some translation thereof, this is a carnival day and also the last day of “fat eating” or “gorging” before the fasting period of Lent.

To the casual observer, Mardi Gras is all about partying and enjoying life. And while that’s certainly its central appeal, the holiday actually has its origins in the Christian religion. Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) is the last day before Lent, a period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that lasts until Easter. So when you consider it, that’s forty days of living quite piously. Fat Tuesday is the last hurrah before more than a month of atonement. No wonder everyone wanted to live it up so badly!

So, how can we have fun?!

Shrove Tuesday is traditionally viewed by many as a day of repentance and has now become a day of fun and feasting. Just because you have to work or be at school during Mardi Gras does not mean fun cannot be had. If there are a few others working around and with you on Fat Tuesday, take the lead and plan your very own office or classroom shindig! Don’t be the party pooper of the office this year. Instead, throw a party that will make your co-workers feel appreciated because they, too, are experiencing your pain.

Here are some pancake games that we can play as young people on that Fat Tuesday:

You can do more with your pancakes than eat them. There is a ton of fun activities and games you can play for learning purposes. One of the more traditional Pancake Day activities is the Pancake Race. Participants or contestants are each given a saucepan and a pancake, and are given the task of flipping the pancake in the pan while they are working their way to the finish line. Before you start the game, establish the length of the race and how many times the pancake has to be tossed before reaching the finish line. If the pancake falls out of the pan, you have to go all the way back to the start. Another fun pancake game is the pancake on your head race. Here you have to walk across the room with a pancake on their head (it can be on a plate of course). Each time they go a certain distance without losing their pancake, you add another to the stack. See who lasts the longest!

I would suggest for us youngsters in the Catholic Church that we organise some shindig in our parishes by meeting and having fun in a Catholic way. Since we omit singing the Gloria and Alleluia during Lent, use Shrove Tuesday to sing it out in abundance with lots of joy, and then share some fatty meal afterwards! Go big, have a carnival, dress up – think outside the box! Enter Lent in a meaningful and fun way.

A final thought… Perhaps we could all share our addictions and weaknesses (no need to spill it all!) to one another as a community of believers. This way we could we all as friends and family can pray for and support one another throughout the Lenten challenge.

Happy Lent!

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