Some sociologist has said that Christianity was a renewal movement in Jerusalem, a religion in Rome, a culture in Europe and in America a business! And so is was and is. A lot of stuff has adhered to the good news of God in Christ since that day of resurrection.
The Queen of Feasts is Easter – the greatest day of the Christian year, the day that makes all other days possible and gives meaning to all else. Such a day of solemnity required preparation. That seems reasonable and people being people couldn’t just do that on their own they had to organize the preparation so that everyone could get organized enough and be ready at the right time and the same way. So the season of Lent began.
Forty days (not counting Sundays – as Sunday’s are the day of the resurrection it is not appropriate to fast on that day) comprise the days of Lent. Why forty? Forty is number for a trail — a period of probation and testing and occurs often in the tradition. Noah and company were in the ark forty days and forty nights. The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness.
Contemplation, prayer, fasting and giving to the poor developed as the disciplines of Lent. As it is said, “The fasts of the rich are the feasts of the poor.” Fasting meant to eat less and to eat more simply. People being people the days before Lent became a time of excess or carnival (from the Latin to eat meat) culminating on Fat Tuesday when the last of the butter was used up before the Lenten fast began. Therefore pancakes became standard fare for the meal that evening and has become parish tradition for centuries.
The culture has taken to carnival but largely ignored Lent people being people.