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Of pancakes, parties, King Cakes and Lent

Jon Hermes • Mar 3, 2019 at 4:00 PM

What do King Cakes, pancakes, a festive celebration known as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, followed by “giving something up for Lent” all have in common? The answer is woven into centuries of tradition and culture rooted within the church calendar.

In preparing for Easter, it is a common practice for many to look deep inside and examine themselves. This self-examination is all about bringing yourself closer to God. A spiritual checkup, so to speak. Lent is a time set apart in the church calendar for this reflection. The practice is not giving up something as much as it is replacing something with a deliberate effort to increase your relationship with God.

Throughout our history, God desires an intimate connection with you. A connection of knowing and being known. With our attentions scattered in a multitude of ways, this connection becomes increasingly more one-sided than it should. Lent is about filling a void we intentionally create with an increased time for God. The additional time could be offered in prayer, Bible study, meditation or another spiritual exercise.

So, where do pancakes, parties, and King Cakes enter the mix? Like many traditions, they evolve with the times and cultures in which they are celebrated. Many people, especially in years past, would incorporate some variation of fasting for the Lenten season. With giving up tasty foods on the mind, they would often “clean house” and use up their rich ingredients in preparing cakes and pastries such as King Cakes and pancakes. Anticipating a time without them, the day before Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent,) they would celebrate and eat heartily!

Different cultures add their own flair to the celebration, which evolved into what is commonly known as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday in our part of the world. You may also hear the day referred to as Shrove Tuesday.

Fat Tuesday is a celebration. It precedes Lent, which anticipates the greatest celebration for an Easter people.

We celebrate in community united by a common connection of our maker seeking relationship with us. I encourage you to seek out a community to celebrate with. Several churches will be hosting a pancake supper in our area. Join them!

I would also encourage you to embrace a Lenten journey of some fashion. As a people of God, we have a past full of tradition and a hope for the future. However, easily overlooked is the sacredness of our present. Celebrate your wondrous gift of the “here and now,” seeking a deeper relationship with your maker. A relationship of knowing and being known. Peace to all!

Rev. Jon Hermes is the vicar at Saint Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Kingsport.

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