I’ve been thinking about something. It all started with a paczki. What’s a paczki? You might know what one is, but didn’t realize it was spelled this way. It’s pronounced poonch-key. Still confused? It’s the delightful ‘doughnut on steroids’ that only comes out on Fat Tuesday. I look forward to it every year. I may be guilty of forgetting Valentine’s Day, but I don’t forget Fat Tuesday. I celebrate it.
But celebrating Fat Tuesday was never meant to be a 1-day affair. Of course, Fat Tuesday comes right before Lent, the season that seems to have lost all meaning except for giving up stuff. What we see is many people celebrating Fat Tuesday without celebrating Lent.
This is a problem.
First of all, is it celebrating when you give something up? This may just be semantics, but every time I celebrate something, there seems to be dessert involved. We have cake for birthdays, candy for Halloween, pie for Thanksgiving and cookies for the end of each day. That last one may just be me.
Secondly, and more importantly, why are we so unwilling to ride the ups and downs of the roller coaster? Celebrating Fat Tuesday is easy. Buy a paczki, or three, and you’re all set. You could probably get a handful of friends, at least, to join you. But pass out flyers asking people to join you in giving up something for 40 days and see how well that goes over.
I have 3 ideas that may make your invites a bit more inviting.
Get a proper focus
This isn’t about you. It’s about Jesus. Paul wrote that we are not to “let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).
When we observe the practice of Lent, we acknowledge that we have excess in our lives that we can get rid of, at least temporarily. We do so to turn more of our attention to Jesus. It is most properly due at this time as we look ahead to Easter.
For many years I would remember it was Lent when, on the first day of Lent, a friend would ask me what I was giving up that year. D’oh! Then I would panic and give up the first thing that came to mind. A couple of hours later I would want to change my mind but would feel too guilty. So then I would feel stuck. I could either feel guilty about reversing my decision or I could feel guilty about sulking over what I didn’t have. I don’t think God wanted either of those options.
So now I plan ahead, considering what would be a benefit to my spiritual growth. By giving it more than 5 minutes worth of thought, I was able to allow time for God to tell me what He wanted to do. Then I could walk through Lent feeling good about my decisions and understanding the overall goal.
Once you have done #1 and 2, it’s time to realize this is a celebration as well. Lent is not something to do with just your serious side. Remember that Jesus warned against looking ‘somber as the hypocrites do’ (Matthew 6:16). Not only do you lose your reward this way, but you forget the overall goal.
Consider this, even when we experience the ‘loss’ of a friend or family member, we ‘celebrate’ their memory at a funeral. The loss is not eternal, so celebrate the way it is helping you grow.
I believe it is possible to celebrate both Fat Tuesday and Lent. You just can’t do both with a paczki.So there you have it. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s mine. What would you add to it?