Well, Lent is nearly upon us again.That great time of year where we get brownie points off the ‘Lord’ himself for making sacrifices. So if that ‘New Year’s’ resolution went south (and whose didn’t) you can now start again with the might of the almighty on your side (and keeping an eye on you as well).
Lent is a forty day period before Easter set aside as a season of soul-searching and repentance. The forty days reflect Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for his own time of spiritual reflection.
And, yahoo, we get to start this special time of year with a feast of Pancakes, well at least that is what we do in Ireland. Tradition says that Pancakes were made to use up the butter, flour, sugar and whatever other foodstuff that was seen as an indulgence. Mainly the fatty foods were not eaten during this time of fasting. As with all traditions they have been adapted to fit with our modern and plentyful society with Pancake recipes now, with every topping imaginable, Chocolate Spreads, cream, strawberries etc. I think it is very safe to say the true meaning of this time of sacrifice and reflection has long been lost to a good many of us.
I have many early memories of our Lent in Limerick. Surprisingly, we did what we were told to do and attended a lot of the religious activities throughout the 40 days of lent although if this fragmented and rosy memory serves me right, since a lot of Mam’s & Dad’s (Mam’s mainly) pointed us in the direction of the St.Munchin’s church and we were on our own for the evening 6.30pm Lenten mass it turned out to be not such a bad place to catch the eye of the members of the opposite sex, and no were were not afraid of being struck down. We also attended the ‘Fathers’. Boarded the bus at the ‘corner’, where Michael Connelly (AKA Mucka Connelly, the potato man), always took an age to climb the steps of the bus as his walk was ailing him a bit.
Mucka Connely’s was before it’s time, organic potato’s, cabbage, carrots and assorted vegetables. Organic insofar that he never removed any earth / soil from any of his vegetables as it added weight and a couple of pennies to his price. He would patiently wait while the weigh scales wavered to and fro and remove even the smallest of potatoes from the weighing scales in case you got a spud too many. Eating into his profits you see. The only redeeming factor about your trip down the road to Mucka’s for your mam was you walked into a time-warp when going in the front door of his house, come shop, come front parlour. An open fire / hearth always smelling of turf , a concrete flag floor and nearly always the smell of dinner on the go . It was a mini journey back in time to the country gottage, only this one was in the middle of Thomondgate. Always glad to get back to your warm home and carpeted floors.
The Redemptorists have been in Limerick since 1853 and are known locally as “The Fathers”. I can be corrected here I’m sure but during Lent we got the bus twice a week (Tuesday’s and Thursday’s) to the Fathers instead of the obligatory once per week. (Tuesday’s)
So on Tuesday 4th. March, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras or even Fat Tuesday (whatever appeals to you most) we start our Lenten season with our Pancake feast. I, unfortunately, will be travelling and on the foreign soil of Switzerland, so I may just persuade ‘her indoors’ to have a few pancakes on Monday 3rd. instead.
It can be a time of reflection, a time of spiritual renewal or all of these things together. It also coincides with the lengthening of the evenings and the blossom of the daffodils. This represents to me a return of the warming sunshine, even if it is only in the form of a flower. March and April can be the coldest of months if truth be told. But for 40 days (with Sunday’s off, how bad) you can be grateful for the things you have in life, walk that extra few steps, skip that extra spoon of sugar, the fry on the weekend, the extra glass of wine and enjoy that ‘guaranteed’ energy boost you will get for the smallest of exercise regimes.
And promise yourself that you will return to your wicked ways and life’s indulgences at the end of the Lent. I’ll keep you posted on how my lent progresses BUT I won’t promise anything but my hopes are for those things I’ve listed above.
So here goes…. LENT here I come :-), Four Pancakes Please, Yum