Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ash Eve, or Shrove Tuesday

THERE is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink and find enjoyment, for these are from the hand of God.--Ecclesiastes 2:24

CARNIVAL celebrates the unity of our human race as mortal creatures, who come into this world and depart from it without our consent, who must eat, drink, defecate, belch, and break wind in order to live, and procreate if our species is to survive. Our feelings about this are ambiguous. To us as individuals, it is a cause for rejoicing that we are not alone, that all of us, irrespective of age or sex or rank or talent, are in the same boat.--W.H. Auden

IN Europe some of the most famous celebrations of the three days before Ash Wednesday occur at Nice in France (La Bataille des FIeurs), Binche in Belgium (where there is a rewarding museum on the worldwide cult of Carnival), and Cologne and Munich in Germany. In all these spectacular events, the mask plays a prominent part, symbolizing as it always does the opportunity for licence, buffoonery, ribald jokes and a general relaxation of inhibitions.

From ancient times the importance of Carnival in Venice, which lasted for almost two months from Christmas until Ash Wednesday, was really based on the tacit participation and consent of the rulers of the city. Political despotism was suspended, and a mask could provide a protective cover for all types of games, adulteries, love affairs and conspiracies under the guise of popular merrymaking.

One of the most remarkable of all European carnivals-the Fasnacht of Basle in Switzerland-is however celebrated after Lent has begun. In the sixteenth century the church banned all masking, and the fiercely independent Baslers were so furious that they decided to double their sins and celebrate Carnival on the Monday after Ash Wednesday.--Lionel Lambourne

COME, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.
Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no flower of spring pass us by.
Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither. Let none of us fail to share in our revelry;
because this is our portion, and this our lot.--Wisdom 2:6-9

We shall have mead
We shall have wine
We shall have feast
We shall have sweetness and milk
Honey and milk,
Wholesome ambrosia,
Abundance of that,
Abundance of that.

We shall have harp,
We shall have lute,
We shall have horn.
We shall have sweet psaltery
Of the melodious strings
And the regal lyre,
Of the songs we shall have,
Of the songs we shall have.

And the King of kings,
And Jesus Christ,
And the Spirit of peace
And of grace be with us
Of grace be with us.--Celtic blessing on Ash Eve


  1. In New Orleans, Carnival season celebrations begin On Twelfth Night.

  2. I grew up Presbyterian; the best we could muster was pancakes on Tuesday night.

    We never even knew why.....

  3. Back in the olden days, Lenten rules were strict, so we knew to eat, drink, and be merry, and I think we mostly knew why.

  4. We were only allowed to do that on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And even then, not too much.....