CEBU, Philippines - It is human nature to take advantage of doing things for the last time before they become a prohibition. Grab the chance while it is still offered. In some ways, this practice has been good since it is living life to the fullest.
Pre-Lenten Festivals is one of the activities that people from all walks of life celebrate to excess before the season of Lent. This is a celebration of abundance before the season of fasting and abstinence.
Carnival is one of the more popular pre-Lenten festivals. Carnival comes from the Latin expression carne vale, which means “farewell to meat,” signifying the last days when one could eat meat before the fasting of Lent starts. Yet another translation depicts carne vale as “a farewell to the flesh,” a phrase embraced by certain carnival celebrations that encourage the letting go of your former self and embracing the carefree nature of the festival. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade, circus, and public street party complete with masks. People often dress up during the celebrations, which mark an overturning of daily life. This festival begins on Septuagesima, the first Sunday before Ash Wednesday. In some places it starts as early as the Twelfth Night (January 6) or even in November. This is usually practiced in European and Latin American countries, especially in Brazil.
Another pre-Lenten festival is the Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday. It refers to the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season. Popular practices include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, etc. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition. In English, the day is called Shrove Tuesday, associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.
Maslenitsa festival, also known as Butter Week, Pancake Week, or Cheesefare Week is another pre-Lenten festival, which is also a Russian religious and folk holiday. The festival is of pagan and Christian origins. In Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa is a sun festival, celebrating the imminent end of winter. It is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent. Group fist fights are undertaken during this week which commemorates Russian military history, when soldiers fought each other in hand-to-hand combat. Another event is the Performing Bears where bears and their tamers would perform and both would be served large quantities of vodka. This usually ends in a wrestling match between tamer and bear, with the bear often gaining the upper hand.
In the Philippines, we don’t have such kind of pre-Lenten festivals because we usually avoid celebrations at these times, bearing in mind that we are in the 40-day period of preparation for the coming celebration of the Paschal Mystery. We are very much aware that we will soon commemorate the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
All in all, these festivals or practices are a good excuse to go out and have a good time, eat and drink, and do something you wouldn’t do during Lent. Somehow this shows how people recognize the essence and value of Lent.