“He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.” Matt. 4:2
Dear Redeemer Family:
Yes, we are now in Lent. And there are numerous traditions about this season. So, I thought that I would
present you with a couple of them, and where they come from. I thought that we would look at the
ones pertaining to food.
First, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, which is not in Lent proper. The purpose of Fat Tuesday is not to
engage in excess. Rather, there was a practical reason. When Fat Tuesday rolled around, it generally
meant that winter was just about over, and warmer weather was coming. In the time of no refrigeration
for your food, this presented a problem. So, on Fat Tuesday, after a long winter, you were supposed to
clean out your larder of anything which might spoil. By the end of the day on Fat Tuesday, all those
goods would either have to be consumed or thrown away. Then, you sort of let your larder lay fallow for
40 days, to kill the germs. Surprise! There was a practical reason for this tradition.
Second, there is the tradition of not eating meat on Fridays in Lent. Actually, that is an adjustment. In
the ancient Church, they date nothing on Wednesdays and Fridays, whether in Lent or not. Later it
became not eating of meat on those days. Later still, it was changed to not eating meat on Ash
Wednesday and Fridays in Lent. So, rejoice and be glad! It could have been a bit harder for us. As to why
the ancient Church fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays, it was because the ancient Jews fasted on
Tuesdays and Thursdays. They wanted to be different.
And third, and my favorite, the waffle. The waffle actually comes from the Middle Ages. Have you ever
noticed that the word “waffle” looks quite a bit like the word “wafer?” It should. That is where the
waffle ultimately comes from. During Lent, one of the few foods that you were allowed to consume
without restraint was the wafer, namely the wafer of Holy Communion. So somewhere in the Middle
Ages, in France or Belgium (yes, Belgian waffles are now famous in their own right), someone got the
idea of making a larger wafer that could be consumed during the fast days of Lent whenever you got
peckish. The original recipe was only flour and water. And they made them bigger than the Holy
Communion wafer. Also, since the Holy Communion wafers often had some symbol imprinted on them
representing Christ, they early waffles (or rather the waffle irons) had some lesser symbol imprinted on
them. Of course, the waffle has changed a lot since then. But that is its origin. Now, it has become a
staple of many breakfasts, and not just for the Season of Lent either. But the next time that you have a
waffle for breakfast, don’t forget to say grace.