RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A new day, the day after Carnival, and I know most of you are thinking about the next 46 calendar days of Lent until Easter Sunday – April 24th. Don’t worry though, no judgments, your choices are between you and your maker. Now at the risk of covering old ground, a layman’s synopsis of how this all came about.
For starters, some say the word Lent originates from a Germanic root meaning Spring, but the timing was initiated in the Babylonian pagan religious days, in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).
According to Semeramis (one of several legendary Assyrian queens), the wife of Nimrod the King of Babylon, claimed to be impregnated supernaturally by the Sun god and gave birth to Tammuz.
Someday while hunting Tammuz was slaughtered by a wild boar. Semeramis lamented for forty days, at the conclusion of which Tammuz was apparently transported back from the dead.
Somehow this hard-to-prove story made it into the Christianity lore when the Roman Empire converted to Christianity as its new religion. In 325, the Council of Nicea (the first effort by Christian bishops to gain consensus in the church, which took place in present day in Turkey) talked about a forty day Lenten period of fasting, and soon the entire Church practiced it.
As today, how good Christians practiced depends on many things, geography playing a large role. In the East, they fasted on weekdays and for the West Lent was one week shorter, but included Saturdays. The common mandate was only one food was eaten per day (by sunset) and no meat, fish, or animal products allowed.
Over time the fasting became less stringent, and more symbolic in many ways. Conventionally forty days in Lent are highlighted by fasting, together from foods and revelry, and by other types of abstinence.
In Brazil (almost 75 percent Catholic, and 15 percent Protestant,) having the most amount of Christians in the world second only to the U.S., it is easy to understand why Carnival is such a big hit. Now it’s over… sorta.
Carnival activities will continue through the weekend with the Champions parade this Saturday on the Sapucaí where the six best Samba schools in contest will parade again. And we know there are a few more blocos planned.