Churchgoers prepare for time of sacrifice

Whether you call it Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, Feb. 24 will be the last day to indulge yourself before heading into the somber 40 days of Lent.

In New Orleans, locals and tourists alike are living like the best or worst hedonists, depending on your point of view. In Craig, parishioners are eating pancakes. But both festivities have their roots in Christian tradition.

The congregations at St. Mark's Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Church of Grace will celebrate Shrove Tuesday with a pancake supper on Feb 24.

Shrove is the past tense of shrive, which means to confess or do penance. In preparation for the personal sacrifices of Lent, Christians traditionally have gotten their restlessness out of their systems by having one last wild night. For some, that may mean dressing up like a flamingo and parading down Bourbon Street. Others recognize the day in a subtler fashion, by eating a big meal.

"You do your partying and celebrating before Lent starts, when you're somber," said Father Tom White of the Lutheran Church of Grace.

Throughout history, the church has taught its followers to be conservative about their eating during Lent. It was an Episcopal and Lutheran tradition to eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday in order to use up their fats, eggs and dairy before the period of fasting began.

It's a tradition that's been slightly modified today, as many do without food or avoid eating meat on Fridays, and many more use Shrove Tuesday as a last chance to stuff themselves before enduring the long 40 days until Easter.

In recognition of the seriousness of the season, Lutherans generally don't even hold weddings during that time, White said. He agreed it could be a lousy time to have a birthday. One could have a birthday party, he said, but it would be a bit subtler than parties held during other times of the year.

This year, White has chose to recognize Lent by tightening up his discipline and spending more time building himself up through spiritual reading.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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