Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Car Fasting in Lent

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, better known as Pancake Tuesday in the civilised world. We have been trying to convert the German nation to the true faith for years. In many parts of Germany between November 11 at 11:11 am and midnight on Shrove Tuesday people celebrate with increasing intensity the nearer it gets to Ash Wednesday. From the Thursday before Ash Wednesday (known as Dirty  or Womens’ Thursday when ladies in the Ruhr and on the Lower Rhine cut mens’ ties off) until Rose Monday and Fasnacht/Fasching/Karneval Tuesday there are Balls, street parades, variety shows with jokes of a simple kind, young men and women dancing in sequinned costumes which don’t leave much to the imagination, with costumed audiences including much cross dressing. It is definitely Saturnalia. We have tried over the years to persuade our neighbours that it is better to just have a plateful of pancakes with sugar and lemon on Shrove Tuesday than all this cavorting. We haven't had much success and I don’t rate our chances highly in future.
Afterwards on Ash Wednesday life in Germany resumes its serious Teutonic ways. People give up various practices for Lent.  They leave alcohol, tobacco or sweets out of their diets. The Catholic and Protestant churches in Rhineland Palatinate and in Luxembourg as well as the Roman Diocese of Aachen in North Rhine Westphalia have a new variation: Autofasten (Car Fasting). During the period of this action from 1st March to 29th March church members agree to using their cars less and this includes commuting. It is a voluntary action. Participants will travel by public transport, by forming car pools, by bicycle or on foot. It might well be difficult in this year as two trade unions are fighting for control in the German railway industry and there will be serious strikes. Apart from the strikes it does appear that the SW German/Luxembourg approach to fasting has a lot to offer and could well be taken up elsewhere. See the church's blog: (in German and French). Obviously the idea over the long term is to encourage people to use their cars less all the time.

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