Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) has a long history of overindulgence and revelry prior to the forty day fast of Lent. It is also known as Shrove Tuesday, derived from shrive, the confession of sins as a preparation for Lent, a usual practice in Europe in the Middle Ages. As the final day before the austerity of the Lenten fast, Shrove Tuesday also has many customs pertaining to food. Pancakes are traditional in a number of European countries because eggs, sugar, and fat, commonly forbidden during the Lenten fast, are used up so they will not go to waste. Even where Lent has ceased to have much religious meaning there is a festival before the period of what once was strict ascetic fasting and abstinence. The observance of Lent has been modified, but we can give this day before Ash Wednesday some spiritual meaning by expressing our gratitude for what we have received and sharpening our awareness of those who are in need. Being grateful for what we have, we can commit ourselves to those who have so much less. While we feast, we can balance that with the realization that the discipline of fasting provides an important balance to our life styles. We can reflect that what we consider fasting is an abundance in many parts of the world.
I will give thanks to God while I live.
I will try to be grateful for all I have received and be free enough to enjoy it in a spirit of balance and responsibility.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
Fasting and feasting are two aspects of a balance between discipline and celebration, between the experience of limits and the gratitude for a shared abundance. The fasting takes us inwards to create our inner discipline. The feasting takes us outwards to share the gift of food in community.
Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once.
Mardi Gras is in our soul.
“Laissez les bons temps rouler!” captures the heart of the Mardi Gras festival. This festival is designed for people to indulge in all the excitement and fun they can prior to lent which is a time of reducing one’s more indulgent activities. In the United States, one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations takes place in the city of New Orleans. As a result of this town’s historic connection to France, many of the common phrases are expressed in French.
Masks are an integral part of Mardi Gras culture. During Mardi Gras celebrations hundreds of years ago, masks were a way for their wearers to escape class constraints and social demands. Mask wearers could mingle with people of all different classes and could be whomever they desired at least for a few days.
The old idea underpinning the holiday is that people should overindulge before giving everything up for 40 days. Christians would eat all of the forbidden food that was left in their house so their home would be free of temptation during the fasting period—origin of the name Fat Tuesday . Today many Christians disagree on whether the devout should continue to participate in these rituals, given their association with excess, and whether the holiday should be included on the Christian calendar.