Today is Shrove Tuesday.
Depending upon where you are in the world that could mean shaking your beads and booty for Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro, donning a Carnivale mask as you swan about Venice in a gondola, or practicing your flipping skills for Pancake Day in London.
If you are Christian then it also means that Lent starts tomorrow. Most people associate Lent as a Catholic thing but it’s actually practiced, on a voluntary basis, in many Protestant denominations as well.
I appreciate that Christians who practice Lent do so for deeply felt religious purposes. Without wanting to undermine that, I would also suggest that there is merit in the idea of sacrifice and abstention from a secular point of view as well. We live in such a materialist society and one where indulgence and over-consumption is the norm, with devastating consequences for our health, our wallets and our planet. Sometimes a bit of abstention is what is needed to bring balance back into our lives – why else would so many people give up alcohol for January, for example?
Practicing Lent is never going to be as popular as eating pancakes today or chocolate eggs at the other end, but I’ve been surprised by how popular it seems to be – judging from the conversations I’ve seen on Twitter over the last few days.
If you or someone you know is planning to give up a luxury for Lent, how about something that benefits the environment? For example, giving up meat or take-away food, or using a tumble dryer for your clothes or driving a car. What is your biggest eco-sin that you don’t want to give up for good but think you might be able to do without for 40 days? That’s long enough to form a habit so it might even help you make longer term changes to your lifestyle.
Image: Daniele Butera