Shrove Tuesday, which occurs the first Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, is traditionally viewed by many as a day of repentance and has now become a day of fun and feasting before the observance of the Lenten fast. Shrove Tuesday originated during the Middle Ages and during that period, food items like meats, fats, milk, eggs and fish were off limits during Lent. In an effort to keep these foods from being wasted, families would consume the items that would spoil during the next forty days. Thus, the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday started as a way to use as much milk, fats and eggs as possible before Ash Wednesday. Later, Shrove Tuesday was coined as “Pancake Day” as various countries began the tradition of serving pancakes which included these items. The day is also celebrated as Carnival and Mardi Gras around the world, and is most commonly associated with New Orleans and Rio de Janiero. During carnival celebrations, participants wear flamboyant and elaborate masks and costumes, dancing, competitions and parades; these practices are associated with celebrations before fasting and religious obligations associated with the season of Lent. While eating a stack of pancakes or participating in Carnival celebrations may be fun, these aren’t the only ways to celebrate Shrove Tuesday. If you’re looking for fun activities to celebrate the day, here are six ideas:
Have a Mardi Gras Parade of Children: If you are up to organizing it, start up a Mardi Gras parade in your own neighborhood. The children can wear fun, easy-to-make costumes and decorate wagons, bikes cars, even self-made floats to ride through the neighborhood in. You can purchase beads, stuffed animals and toys that the people in the parade can throw to other children in the neighborhood who aren’t on the floats. While adults can assist the children in the parade, the kids are the showcase and will have a ton of fun being front and center. Remind all who are participating that Christ is at the center of this celebration.
Have a Potluck Dinner: Gather your family and friends for a pot-luck dinner to celebrate before the Lenten fast begins. Ask each person or family to bring a fun or favorite dish so there can be a variety of food items on the menu. You can even turn the celebration up by making the potluck Mardi Gras- themed. Include New Orleans-styled foods like Crepes and beignets on your potluck list and do up the house with Mardi Gras-themed decorations so the night feels more festive. Pass out masks and funny hats that the adults and kids can wear. Just remember to take down the decorations at the end of the party to prepare for Lent.
Pancake Games: You can do more with your pancakes than eat them. There are 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 start. Another fun pancake game is the pancake on your head race. During this game, children have to walk across the room with a pancake on their head (it can be cardboard of course). Each time they go a certain distance without losing their pancake, you add another to the stack. See who lasts the longest.
A “Journey to the Cross” poster: If you’re looking for a more spiritually-based activity, you can make a “Journey of the Cross” poster for keeping track of the sacrifices you and your family are making during Lent. On the poster, draw a path leading to the cross at the top of the poster. The path will be marked with 46 sections representing the forty days of Lent, plus Sundays so they can be clearly distinguished from the other days. The posters can be done collaboratively or separately. Throughout your family’s Lenten journey, you will mark the poster with your sacrifices or things you’ve decided to take on, and reflect on those once the Lenten season is complete.
Decide On Your Lenten Sacrifices: If you haven’t already, Shrove Tuesday is a great time to decide personally, or collectively what you plan on sacrificing during the Lenten season. It’s important that we recognize that these sacrifices are like gifts that we offer to God, and these gifts will cost something; however, these gifts can help strengthen us for living as Christians. While you can make this fun by discussing what you want to do as a family, this is a very personal decision. Decide on something that will challenge you. While chocolate and soda may be something you enjoy consuming, ask yourself if what you are giving up is hindering your relationship with God and if you’ll be a more complete person once you let this thing go? Asking yourself these questions may help you decide what you want to let go or take on. While most people associate lent with giving up thing, it’s also a great time to take on something new. This can be anything from setting aside more time for prayer, or taking on a service project in an effort to give back. It’s important that we set aside time for God, and participate in activities that truly reflect Him.