I look forward to receiving my Pre-Lent Supplement from Laudamus Te which
will contain morning/evening prayers, meditations, and feast propers for Septuagesima Sunday, January 27, through the Feast of the Seven Servite Fathers, February 12.
This is pre-Lenten period known as Septuagesima (seventy)--part of the liturgical year in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite which was replaced by Ordinary Time after the reform of the liturgy in the 1960's and 1970's. Septuagesima begins the fast before Lent: we fast from the Alleluia and the Gloria, and begin voluntary fasting.
The Sundays of Septuagesima are: Septuagesima, and Sexagesima, Quinquagesima and the traditional name for the first Sunday of Lent is Quadragesima. They all mark the time before Easter: 70 days, 60 days, 50 days, 40 days. More about Septuagesima here.
The period before Lent included feasting as well as fasting: in earlier times, Catholics used up all the meat, cheese, and other meat products before Ash Wednesday: Carnival (farewell meat!). And that period ended with Shrovetide in the final days before Ash Wednesday, finishing up the last of the meat and going to Confession just before Lent began. In Kansas, we have an interesting commemoration of Shrovetide with the annual Pancake Race in Liberal, Kansas, held in conjunction with a race in Olney, England. (Making pancakes is a good way to use up grease!) The race recalls an event in the 15th century:
In Olney, the Pancake Race tradition dates back more than 500 years to 1445. A
woman engrossed in using up cooking fats (forbidden during Lent) was making
pancakes. Hearing the church bells ring calling everyone to the shriving
service, she grabbed her head scarf (required in church) and ran to the church,
skillet and pancake in hand and still apron-clad. In following years, neighbors
got into the act and it became a race to see who could reach the church first
and collect a "Kiss of Peace" from the verger (bell-ringer.) The kiss is still
the traditional prize in both races.