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devil duck

On penitence

In medieval Christianity, the seasons of Lent and Advent were "penitential seasons", during which dancing, eating meat, and certain joyful and uplifting parts of the Mass were forbidden. They represented a sober spiritual preparation for the joyful and uplifting Easter and Christmas respectively. After the penitence and the joy, people officially went back to "ordinary time" the day after Easter or Christmas.

Today, we've reversed things. The months of November and December are an orgy of consumption, music, and visual spectacle. The penitential season begins with New Year's Day: get rid of the Christmas cookies, join a health club, put away the tree and the lights, balance the household budget, fill out your tax forms, wear sensible clothes. This penitential season has no clear endpoint: it sorta fades out over several weeks or months as people get tired of frugality and self-discipline.

I'm sure I'm not the first person to make this observation....


... but it is an astute one!
This may be the clearest statement I've seen of it, though.

The end of the Modern Winter Penitential Season is actually the Feast of Valentine's Day. Which often roughly coincides with Ash Wednesday... (Says the woman who sometimes found herself in the odd position of distributing chocolate samples while fasting herself.)

And, come to think of it - Pentecost coincides roughly with the Summer Penitential Season - aka "OMG, I just tried on my swim suit! Nothing but salads... and I'm going to run every day..." That fades more gently, though, to the Ordinary Time of Ice Cream.
Yes, I was thinking of an "OMG, I just tried on my swim suit!" penitential season too. I don't know that it has a specific start date; does it end at Memorial Day, when the beaches open?
It's a Movable F(e)ast.

Some people don't try the suit on until the beaches/pools open. Some don't until they are unexpectedly invited to a pool party. Others may do this any time in the Spring. And there are certainly regional variations - ours in the North East starts later than most.

BTW- Liturgically, in the Catholic Church, at least, Ordinary Time begins at the end of the Christmas and Easter *seasons.* Yesterday, that is, which was the day after Epiphany, and the day after Pentecost. We get more than a day to celebrate.
Perhaps we are merely aligning ourselves to an older tradition. I'd always been confused that Rosh Hashana precedes Yom Kippur, but it could be the Patriarchs were onto something we have since lost track of.