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.
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!