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Today is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (Ashermittwoch). It is known around the world by many names, such as Shrove Tuesday or Mardis Gras (Fat Tuesday).
In some countries, this is the last day of the celebration of Carnival which began the day after Epiphany (Dreikönigstag). Here in Germany, this one day is part of an entire season of festivities that began on November 11 at 11:11. It is called Karneval, Fasching, or Fastnacht. Depending on who you are, today is either a sober day of self-examination and confession, or a day to let loose and party in costume – maybe both!
The ‘fat’ in Fat Tuesday has to do with preparations for the season of Lent (Fastenzeit), in which certain foods such as meat, sugary treats, or dairy products are set aside – ‘given up’ (verzichten) – until Easter. Today is a day of indulgence (Genuss), one last chance to eat the foods you will not have after today. As for myself, this evening I will use up the leftover eggs, milk, butter, and sugar in my kitchen and grill up a giant stack of pancakes – Pancake Tuesday.
For those who are obligated (verplichtet) to take the season of Lent seriously, the next forty days might look a little bland (fade). The idea of sacrificing something is not normally an exciting one. But the goal, among others, is to make room in your life. The focus is not so much on the lack (Mangel), but on what can be gained in its place. Where I am from, even those who are not religious attempt to give up certain bad habits, or to develop a healthier lifestyle or routine. Time to renew those New Year Resolutions (Neujahrsvorsätze) that were made in January and possibly already abandoned (vergessen)!
‘Fat’ Tuesday. It reminds me of a kitschy joke that my parents used to tell my sisters and I when we were school children. Just before we got on the school bus, one of my parents would tell us to ‘make our brains fat.’ Later that day we were expected to sit down over dinner and give a detailed explanation of everything that we had learned – a ‘fat brain’ is a brain that grows in both experience and knowledge.
Learning a new language can be a bit like Carnival. Attempting to communicate in a language that is not your own is something like putting on a costume, stepping into a character that is not your usual self, and enjoying the new perspective. But committing to study is also a sacrifice. You have to set aside the time and devote (zuwenden) yourself to memorization and practice. Maybe it means giving up something else in order to perfect your listening, speaking, and writing skills. Imagine how much forty days of dedication could improve your skills!
Whatever meaning the day holds for you, I challenge you to take a bit of both the fun and the strictness being practiced today and combine it with your learning program. So have a good day and don’t forget to make your brain fat.
Landon - cXc English Instructor