Christian Traditions 006: Pre-Lent Season and Carnival

Von Trapp Follow-Along: As mentioned in the last post, Maria describes Candlemas (2 February) in beautiful detail under “CANDLEMAS.” She also says quite a bit about the period between Epiphany (6 January) and Ash Wednesday (which is 18 February this year) under “CARNIVAL” and the Pre-Lent Season under “PRE-LENT.”


Pre-Lent Season and Carnival are a time of preparation for Lent. Because Lent is a time of fasting and abstinence, Pre-Lent and Carnival are a time of feasting and celebration.

violet purpleCOLOR

Violet or Purple. (As explained below, Pre-Lent coincides with Ordinary Time for the month of February this year. Pre-Lent supersedes Ordinary Time, so instead of Ordinary Time’s green, the colors are Pre-Lent’s violet or purple.) This color symbolizes penitence and preparation.

chi rho christosSYMBOL

There doesn’t seem to be a symbol for the Pre-Lent Season or Carnival, so the XP symbol of Ordinary Time would continue (see my previous post about Ordinary Time).


1-17 February 2015WHEN IS IT?

Pre-Lent Season starts on Septuagesima Sunday, which lasts 17 days, begins three Sundays before Ash Wednesday, and ends the day before Ash Wednesday (“Fat Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras”). The earliest it can begin is January 18 and the latest it can end is March 9. This year, it will be 1 February through 17 February. Because it begins on Septuagesima Sunday, the season may also be known as Septuagesima.

Carnival may nearly match Ordinary Time (wherein it stretches from Epiphany until Ash Wednesday, so 6 January through 17 February this year), or perfectly match the Pre-Lent Season (as described above, so 1 February through 17 February this year). The most traditional observance of Carnival exactly matched the Pre-Lent Season. For the purposes of my observances—and for bloggy reasons—I consider Carnival to exactly match Pre-Lent Season.

septuagesimaWHAT IS IT?

Carnival. During Lent, as Maria Von Trapp explains, “good Christians are not allowed to attend public dances and are not supposed to have a big festive wedding celebration.” (See CARNIVAL in her book.) There are actually two such times: Advent (from late November or early December to Christmas) and Lent (between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday). To make up for these two times, the time from Epiphany to Ash Wednesday (Ordinary Time Part 1 and Pre-Lent) is dedicated to dancing and feasting of any kind. In Latin, the saying “Meat—farewell!” (“Carne—Vale!”) became “Carnival.” Carnival begins on Epiphany (6 January) and ends at midnight on the day before Ash Wednesday (“Fat Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras,” which is 17 February this year). Carnival is seen as necessary for the individual, families, and communities, because it’s a time during which you can let off steam and have a good time. In the same way that children come home to family get-togethers on Thanksgiving, they do the same during Carnival. “Parish groups” (which I translate into Evangelical language as “small group” or “Bible Study group” or “Sunday School class”) have small parties every Sunday during Carnival. The best events—be they family evenings or small group parties—have a special theme for which people must dress and speak or even provide appropriate food and games. Dancing is a must, which I admit makes my Baptist-born heart skip a beat. Games are important as well. Of course, Carnival is a time for dancing together, playing together, and singing together! So songs are a must. Food is important, too. Historically, the closer Ash Wednesday came, the more housewives worked to clear out the forbidden foods, which, of course, they did by cooking them. Because Lent and Advent are times during which meat, milk, cream, butter, cheese, and everything else bad for your arteries was forbidden and therefore excluded from meals, Carnival is a time when most of your food should be deep-fried and dripping in gravy! Cheesy, creamy, buttery goodness is a must! Because of this rush to clear the kitchen and pantry of forbidden items, the food alone makes the last days before Ash Wednesday the climax of Carnival. On “Fat Tuesday” (or “Mardi Gras”), the day before Ash Wednesday, people traditionally gathered together in large parties to experience the forbidden dances, games, songs, and foods one more time. Maria Von Trapp explains,

This should be a big celebration, if possible of the whole parish together, or a circle of friends, and everything which one did during the previous weeks should be done just once more. “Once more this dance!” “Once more this song!” “Once more this game!”–until twelve o’clock sharp. When the clock strikes twelve, in the middle of the dance, according to the good old tradition, one should stop and the whole group should kneel down and say one “Our Father” together and then, rising up, say, “I wish you a blessed season of Lent” and go home. (See CARNIVAL in her book.)

Pre-Lent. Pre-Lent is also known as Septuagesima (since it begins on Septuagesima Sunday) or Shrovetide (since it ends on Shrove Tuesday). As explained earlier, Pre-Lent coincides with all of February’s Ordinary Time this year. Pre-Lent is primarily a lead-up to Lent and conversion from Carnival to Lent, a time wherein Christians prepare themselves for the Lent Season. (See “PRE-LENT” in Maria Von Trapp’s book.) It is a time during which parents introduce their children to prayer, fasting, and charitable giving, which will be practiced during Lent. It is also during this time that any preparations necessary for Lent are completed. For example, Lenten resolutions may be formulated at this time. It developed in the 500s AD as a time during which people prayed for God’s protection and defense from war, pestilence, and famine.

On the first day of the Pre-Lent Season, Septuagesima Sunday, the “Alleluia” (or “Hallelujah”) is laid aside or “buried” and not taken out again until Easter Sunday. Alleluia is a Hebrew word similar to our “Hoorah!”—a word of triumph chanted to hail a victor after a battle, and the chant John the Beloved heard in heaven during his vision of the Apocalypse after the Beast (popularly known now as “the Antichrist”), Satan, and all the forces of evil have been overthrown (Revelation 19:1-7). Ever since the Medieval Times, children would carry a wooden tablet on which was engraved the word “Alleluia” in a long procession into the church, lay it at the altar, and cover it with a purple cloth. Then, on Easter, the priest would chant a threefold Alleluia in triumphal tones. The Lent and, to some degree, Pre-Lent Seasons remind us that we are sinful and dead in our sins (Romans 5:11-12, 18-21) whereas the Easter Triduum (Good Friday through Easter Sunday) reminds us that as Christ was crucified and resurrected, so are we crucified in order to be dead to sin and resurrected to life in Christ (Romans 6:3-11). Therefore, because Lent is a time to remember our sad state prior to Christ, and Pre-Lent leads up to and mentally prepares us for Lent, Alleluia is buried in Pre-Lent and no longer spoken or sung until Christ’s triumphal victory over death on Easter Sunday. During Pre-Lent, people begin formulating their Lent resolutions (or parents help their children to do so).


As discussed above, Pre-Lent prepares us for Lent, which begins Ash Wednesday on 18 February this year.


The Pre-Lent Season and Carnival will encompass the following events this year:

  • 1-17: Ordinary Time, cont., and Pre-Lent Season/Carnival
  • 1: Septuagesima Sunday (first day of Pre-Lent Season/Carnival)
  • 2: Candlemas (a.k.a., Feast of the Presentation of the Lord)
  • 6: Feast of Saint Paul Miki and Companions (JAPAN ONLY)
  • 8: Sexagesima Sunday
  • 14: Valentine’s Day
  • 15: Quinquagesima Sunday or Shrove Sunday
  • 17: Shrove Tuesday (a.k.a. Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras; last day of Pre-Lent Season/Carnival)


Further activities for each event that falls during this season will be presented in the appropriate posts.

Ordinary Time

  • (Traditional) Readings. Recall that Ordinary Time also extends into the Pre-Lent Season, ending with Shrove Tuesday. Continue the Ordinary Time daily readings as outlined in the first post on this series. You can find the Sunday readings here (recall that we are in a B year) and weekday and Saturday readings here (recall that we are in a I year), or you can find them published daily on my Facebook page ( The first Sunday of the month, 1 February, starts Week 4 of Ordinary Time.


  • (Traditional) Dance. For family celebrations, it’s suggested that you learn your family heritage’s folk dances. For example, my husband’s family is primarily German and mine primarily French and Swedish, so we would learn German, French, and Swedish folk dances.
  • (Traditional) Play Games. For family celebrations, it’s recommended that you learn a new game—by asking among acquaintances or picking up a book, etc.—and add it to your family repertoire every week of Carnival.
  • (Traditional) Sing Songs. For family celebrations, try learning traditional folk songs of your heritage. Although I don’t speak German, French, or Swedish, there are plenty of American folk songs I don’t know—honestly, I don’t even know Yankee Doodle Dandy! The recommendation is to learn and thereby add a new song to your family repertoire every week of Carnival.
  • (Traditional) Food. As explained above, this is a time for eating everything that is forbidden during Lent: eggs, milk and cream and their derivatives (cheese, butter, etc.), and meat. Yum! I made homemade donuts from Pioneer Woman’s recipe and chicken tetrazzini. Because pancakes require milk, eggs, and butter, which have to be finished off before Ash Wednesday, many people around the world would eat lots of pancakes during Carnival.
  • (Traditional) Party! Get together with your church group or other families on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras, 17 February this year) and party until midnight!


  • (Traditional) Resolutions. Formulate your Lent resolutions—have them written before Ash Wednesday. Lent resolutions should not use a negative approach (“I won’t do this or that”) but a positive approach (Maria Von Trapp’s examples are: “I will use these three books…” “I will use the time I save by abstaining from television for this and this…” “I will use the money I save by not going to the movies for alms given to…”)


There are no knit or crochet activities for this period as a whole, the same as there were none for Ordinary Time as a whole. Activities for each event will be presented in the appropriate posts.




2 thoughts on “Christian Traditions 006: Pre-Lent Season and Carnival

  1. Pingback: Christian Traditions 010: Lent Season | Schaabling Shire Shoppe

  2. Pingback: Christian Traditions 012: Shrovetide and Quinquagesima Sunday | Schaabling Shire Shoppe

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