Translated literally, Mardi Gras means “Tuesday Grease”. Well, if people don’t use the term Mardi Gras, they do use the term Fat Tuesday. In case you don’t know why Tuesday must be fat, it’s a day of flamboyant celebrations, green, gold, and purple beaded necklaces, masquerade-style masks, and partying extravaganzas. It’s particularly a big tradition in New Orleans.
“OH yeah. I’ve seen those around. In the Oriental Trading catalogs there are a bunch of those masks and necklaces and party stuff. But why do they celebrate Mardi Gras?” Well, it’s something to do with Christianity, particularly Catholicism. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the kickoff to Lent. Lent is a period of forty days in which people abstain from indulging in the things they load Mardi Gras with. Instead, they pray, fast, ask for forgiveness from God for their sins, and observe the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert resisting temptation from the devil as well as Jesus’s death. So, as you can imagine, this is not a happy time. Oh, and in church you can’t even shout out “Alleluia!” (Kids are the exception to fasting, though. They’re still growing and it’s mean to stunt their growth. Most kids give up something they really like for Lent.)
After Lent comes a happier, more well-known (and commercialized) time: Easter, the time it is believed that Jesus resurrected. But we humans aren’t that patient. We cannot wait forty days until we can finally go around the neighborhood screaming “Alleluia!” and celebrate and eat chocolate and paint eggs and finally get chubbier. We can at least have as much of the stuff that Lent denies us as we can get our hands on. So happy Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras!
UPDATE! AS OF 03/09/14
I was at church today. The priest’s homily was about Lent, since Catholics are in the midst of Lent as we speak. Truth be told, I can’t stand listening to a lecture, and a homily is just like a lecture. But something caught my attention: the priest said that maybe Lent should be a positive time. I mean, making a really unpleasant time positive wouldn’t offend Jesus, would it? Of course not. So, all Catholic kids and people with special needs: if you really don’t wanna give up something, you can add to Lent. Not by more ice cream or koala pencil huggers, but by doing good deeds. Like help a sequoia cloning project to preserve the forests or give to the poor, or growing vegetables to give to charity while conserving energy and gas.