Tag Archives: catholic

Which would you prefer… pancake day or carnaval?

In the Gospels, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert and being tempted by Satan before he commenced on the teaching part of his life – the Ministry. Today in Christian societies this is marked by the celebration of Lent.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is Wednesday next week. Many believers will give up something for the entire period – not quite fasting, but at least refraining from something pleasurable, like alcohol or meat, for the entire period.

In the UK, the advent of Lent is marked by Shrove Tuesday, or pancake day. This is traditionally when extra flour, eggs, and other food from the cupboard would all be cooked up on the final day before Lent – ensuring a feast of pancakes on the last day when such gluttony is allowed.

pancakes front and center

In Brazil it is all quite different. Brazil is far more religious than the UK – truck drivers paint thank you messages to God on their vehicles, asking for a safe journey. It is predominantly Catholic, but with a fast-rising group of evangelical churches too – almost all of them Christian though.

In Brazil there is no pancake day. There is carnaval!

Last year in Rio, almost 5m people joined in the party and it stops the entire nation for almost a week – here in São Paulo, I know that sleeping will be tough for the next week as the music goes on almost all night. This Friday, next Monday and Tuesday, and half of Wednesday are all public holidays in Brazil for the carnaval. So it is almost certain that everything will start winding down early tomorrow and nobody will return to work on Wednesday afternoon – even if that is the official end of the party… many will take annual leave on Thursday and Friday next week allowing almost a week and half off work for just a couple of days leave.

Those who take the carnaval seriously and compete for the various best dancer, best float, or best band prizes will spend the entire year preparing and leading up to this moment – it’s bigger than even Christmas and that’s saying a lot in such a Christian country.

So I guess carnaval more than trumps pancake day, but I still might get the pancake mix out on Tuesday, just to encourage a mix of both cultures. I live in a house with Morrissey pictures on the wall!

Vila_Isabel, samba & platform sandals

Pancake photo by Yesica licensed under Creative Commons. Carnaval photo by Carnaval.com licensed under Creative Commons.

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Henry VIII has a lot to answer for

The English Reformation in the 16th Century was the series of events that led to the creation of the Church of England – when the English broke away from the power of the Roman Catholic church.

For most of my life, I never really considered the significance of this, other than the knowledge that if I had ever met and wanted to get married to an English princess I could never be a King thanks to my own Catholic background.

But now I have moved to Brazil, and as Lent begins this week, I can see a huge glaring difference.

In England, the tradition is to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday – a way of seeking absolution for the crap we eat all year, get rid of it all, and eat more humble food for the following 40 days up to Easter.

In Brazil, the entire country goes wild and nobody does any work for a week… because it’s the CARNIVAL season!

Henry VIII has a lot to answer for…

Viviane Araújo

The Pope in Britain

I’m a Catholic because I’m half-Irish-half-English and, as my dad isn’t much of a believer, I ended up getting baptised – not that I actually go to church. My attendance record is pretty much based on weddings and funerals.

But, when I was asked if I would be interested in working with the government Cabinet Office to follow Pope Benedict around the UK during his visit, providing live commentary via Twitter and blogs, I jumped at the chance. Though I’m not a follower, the teachings of his church have permeated their way into my consciousness just because I was always surrounded by Catholics when I was growing up – and who wouldn’t want to be embedded with a head of state providing a live Twitter feed of what really happens ‘backstage’?

But it was the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who invited the Pope to the UK. And Brown is no longer in office. And the current Prime Minister is either less interested in the Pope visiting, or more attuned to the scandal that will be caused by his visit. Most probably the latter as the child sex scandal furore only seems to be getting worse and the present Pope was previously in charge of handling complaints against the Vatican, and should therefore be acutely aware of the issues – and be handling them rather better.

So the regular media will continue to cover the visit, but all additional nice-to-have coverage (like a live blogger backstage) were all canned.

It’s a shame as I was looking forward to trying to offer some insights. The views of the church often rub directly against my own liberal opinions – I was working in Malta last week and I was surprised to hear that divorce is illegal there because the church won’t allow it. The Catholic church has some way to go to reach the standards considered acceptable in a modern-day society where free expression and respect for Human Rights are considered essential.

But the church has an immense history and tradition and is followed by hundreds of millions of people. I was looking forward to exploring these questions of how faith collides with modernity, but now I won’t get the chance anyway. Another thing I can blame on David Cameron.

What a shame.
Art installation, Central St Martin's