Mardi Gras Day is March 1 2022. Fat Tuesday is the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
Most people think of Mardi Gras as a parade, costumes, drinking, boobs, king cake, and craziness. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual Lenten sacrifices and fasting of the Lenten season. If you’re from Louisiana it makes perfect sense that Mardi Gras means something related to food. We southern Louisiana folks like to feed people. Mardi Gras is a Christian holiday and a popular cultural phenomenon that dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Also known as Carnival or Carnaval, it’s celebrated in many countries around the world—mainly those with large Roman Catholic populations. Brazil, Venice and New Orleans play host to some of the holiday’s most famous public festivities, drawing thousands of tourists and revelers every year. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
Fat Tuesday for many, especially Catholics, is the last day to indulge in whatever it is they will be giving up for Lent. Ash Wednesday is the start date of Lent. Lent lasts for 46 days before Easter Sunday. Lent is set aside by repentance, fasting, reflection, and ultimately celebration. The 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, marking an intentional season of focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection.
When I was young, Ash Wednesday was the day I wished I was Catholic because almost all the students in my school got to be removed by their parents or walk in large groups to the Catholic Church down the street. Which meant they got to miss most of a day’s school. When you’re a kid you’re often very silly with your thinking. I also thought I was lucky I was not Catholic because giving up something I really love seemed super mean. As an adult that moved to a new part of the world for me, I was introduced to my church practicing Catholic ritual of giving up something for Lent. We sometimes would do a planned different thing to give up for certain days, with fasting at the end. It was a humbling experience. I learned the true reason for lent. Trusting yourself to not give in to temptation, learning to live without things you thought you had to have, sitting with silence and the ritual of prayer.
I love everything about Ash Wednesday and lent. While Mardi Gras has a vastly different atmosphere than Lent, it is tradition that goes way back before any of us. What does Lent mean to you? For me it is a time of self-reflection, what I have and what I can live without. It is a time to thank God for the things in my life that I probably could live without but he allows me to not have to. I am very thankful for this time of the year. I haven’t always felt this way but as life happens, we grow up. May you find peace this Lent season.
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