Happy Pancake Day!
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20
As a young girl in England, I remember having pancake races at school on Shrove Tuesday. It was great fun! We would line up with our frying pans carrying a pancake, and we would have relay races while flipping the pancakes and running (and my kids think British people are uncoordinated!). Shrove Tuesday is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Church of England’s observation of Lent, the name comes from the old English word “shrive” which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and penance. Traditionally, pancakes were eaten on this day to use up rich, indulgent foods like eggs and milk before the 40-day fasting season of Lent began. Pancake races happen all over England throughout Shrove Tuesday. The tradition is thought to have originated in the village of Olney in Buckinghamshire (yes, the same Olney where John Newton, author of the famous Hymn “Amazing Grace” was curator of the Church in the late 1700s) in the 15th century, after a woman lost track of time while cooking pancakes on Shrove Tuesday in preparation for Lent. When the “shriving bell” rang out to signal the beginning of the shriving Church service, she ran out of her house with the pan and pancake still in hand, continuing to flip the pancake so it would not burn! What dedication! The village of Olney still holds pancake races every year. I know. My Aunt lived near Olney, and she used to look forward to going to the pancake races there each year. When my children were little, I would try to remember to have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday as a little nostalgic way to remember my roots, I like to make my pancakes the British way – more like crêpes, you should try them, they are yummy!
Now, the French call pancake day ‘Mardi Gras’, or Fat Tuesday. This originates from the ancient ritual of parading a large ox through Paris to remind people that meat was forbidden during the Lent period. Mardi Gras began being celebrated in the French-colonized areas of the United States – New Orleans especially. And we all know how Mardi Gras is celebrated in New Orleans! It saddens me to see that a tradition that began as a way of preparing for the penitential time period before our Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins has turned into a day of carnival celebrations, drinking, and debauchery. Interestingly, the word “carnival” comes from the Latin root words “carn”, which means flesh, and “levare” which means to remove, or put away. Not what happens in New Orleans on Mardi Gras!
But we should not be surprised, Satan has a way of taking that which is good, and making something evil out of it. So many wonderful things that God has created have been corrupted by the Devil, the world, and our own flesh. For example: His creation, His institution of marriage, His Church, His definition of the home, government, and religion to name a few. We are told in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, so we should not be surprised, but we are saddened when we see him defiling something that began as something good and reverent.
As a born-again Christian, I do not follow the traditions of the Catholic Church, or Church of England, but I think that there is no reason why we, as Christians cannot spend the next 40 days reflecting anew on all that our Lord Jesus went through in that time period leading up to and including His death and Resurrection. So, have some pancakes today, and examine yourself. What rich, indulgent habits could you give up as a way to show the Lord how thankful you are for the salvation He so freely offers to us all? As the hymn writer, Elvina M. Hall so aptly put it “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”
~Graced and Grateful Grammy
Have a pancake and be penitent