I'm sitting at my desk on Monday morning and someone in my office remarks with enthusiasm "Hey tomorrow's Pancake Tuesday!"
I will admit that being mystified by people's comments since living in Ireland is not an infrequent occurrence for me but...Pancake Tuesday?
"Oh yeah, cool, Pancake Tuesday!" my other office-mates smile, nod and agree, delighted by the prospect. Clearly Pancake Tuesday is something to be happy about. I admit to myself that anything having to do with pancakes sounds like a pretty good thing.
I casually glance at my calendar. I am used to not knowing what the hell anyone is talking about since I've moved to Dublin and mostly end up using all my faculties to simply not look like a complete moron. Maybe my calendar will have a national pancake holiday marked on it? Perhaps with a short history?
But the only thing I see of significance this week (other than a shit load of work stuff) is Ash Wednesday.
"Uh, you guys mean Mardi Gras?"
"Fat Tuesday? Carnivale?"
I get polite faces and nods, maybe a little impatience for the dumb (but well-meaning) American. "Yeah, yeah, those too...but here it's Pancake Tuesday!!"
This time the blank look is from me.
"You mean you don't have Pancake Tuesday in America?!?!" They are sad for me, pity that I spent a lifetime missing out on something so special.
"No, we don't eat pancakes." I say "What exactly is the deal?"
"The Tuesday before Lent begins we all eat pancakes." I gather that historically it has something to do with cleaning out the pantry before Lent. I am nearly speechless. Nearly.
"Let me get this straight...the rest of the world celebrate just before Lent begins with a drunken orgy of intoxication and THE IRISH EAT PANCAKES????"
Rio, Spain, New Orleans, The Caribbean, Venice...masks, costumes, floats, parades, beads, boobs, partying...a veritable bacchanalia of drink, food and celebration in Catholic locales the world over and the Irish have fecking PANCAKE TUESDAY??
I was floored but after giving it some thought I decided there's a good reason the Irish kick off 40 days of self denial with something as mundane as pancakes. It's because (and I say this with utter affection) there is no real chance of almost anyone in this country giving up alcohol for the entire time. Why have a big alcohol fueled celebration before the fast if there's not going to be much of a fast to begin with?
Anyway, that's how I made sense of it. And I had a lovely pancake with my lunch.