Fat Tuesday - The party before Lent

BlogHer Original Post

Fat Tuesday is the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. As the "last fling" before the penitence of Lent, it is the full-tilt-boogie Mardi Gras day. It was the day when families "giving up" some tasty foods for Lent used up extra sugar, butter and rich food. "Mardi Gras" literally translates as "Fat Tuesday". The colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold. Purple is a symbol of justice, green represents faith and gold signifies power.

The same day is called "Shrove Tuesday" in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The word shrove is the past tense of the word shrive, which means to go through confession and absolution for ones sins.

Different cultures, different emphases.

Rachel describes the history of Mardi Gras:

Mardi Gras arrived in the U.S. around 1699 when a French explorer named Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville arrived about 60 miles south of New Orleans and named it Point du Mardi Gras after the holiday being celebrated in his native country that day. When the Spanish claimed the land in the 1700s, Mardi Gras celebrations were banned. The ban continued through 1827 when the festivities resumed. It’s now considered a legal holiday in New Orleans, with many other cities holding their own localized festivities.

Army of Mom is definitely giving up some treats for Lent.

Tomorrow begins the 40 days of Lent. I'm still debating a bit on what I'm going to give up, but it will certainly include desserts and snacking on sweet stuff like ice cream, cookies, cake ... *sigh* I'm debating on adding something else, but can't quite make up my mind.

Diane points out that the pre-fasting foods differ from country to country.

Germany-Fasnacht Day-fried potato dough with syrup.
Iceland-Bursting Day-salt meat and peas.
Sweden-Fastlagsbulle-sweet bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream.
Poland-Fat Tuesday-Paczki-powered sugar covered variation on jelly donuts.
Italy-home of the oldest "Carnival" in the world-Venice. The origin of the famous mardi gras masks.

For those who eat pancakes on this day especially, our own Alanna Kellogg has provided a wonderful list of recipes for simple to extravagant pancakes.

Betsy reminisces about life in pre-Katrina New Orleans.

I was SO fortunate to have lived in New Orleans for about 5 years back in the '80's.. Today is FAT TUESDAY ---and I yearn to be in that glorious city (the New Orleans I remember--before Katrina). Our family would get up before dawn and stake out our place along St. Charles Avenue. We had ladders (the higher you could go, the more you could see and catch), chairs, coolers full of goodies, and our special bags to collect all of the dubloons, beads, stuffed animals, cups, etc. etc. etc. ! It was an exciting day!

There it is again, the phrase that appears in a lot of blogs before Katrina. One way to celebrate Mardi Gras this year might be with a donation to a New Orleans based charity.

Elizabeth Keaton, an Episcopalian priest who is one of my favorite bloggers, says this about Fat Tuesday:

We are such strange creatures, we humans. Dust balls, breathing. Living. Wildly celebrating life in the face of impending doom and gloom. A riot of color - purple, green, gold, white - in the midst of ash gray.
It seems so outrageous and ridiculous. To be so extravagantly wasteful. You know. Like God's love for us.
Yes, let us prepare our hearts and minds for a 'Holy Lent'. Let us consider our own mortality. The limits of our time here on this side of Paradise. Let us, for a season, meditate on the fragility of our little human lives. Let us do these things, being mindful of the greatness of God.
Before that, let us party on, friends.

I love the extravagance of Mardi Gras, the moth-at-the-flame flight of it. It is, as Elizabeth suggests, a sign of wildly celebrating life.

Stefene reminds us of Mardi Gras past with this stunning video of Mardi Gras from 1941 -- when women were not flashing their breasts, but arrived streetside dressed up in wonderful fancy hats to watch the parade.

Today, Boing Boing posted this amazing home movie of New Orleans Mardi Gras, circa 1941, from the Prelinger Archives of Ephemeral Film, and I just couldn't resist putting it up, since it's Fat Tuesday. Historical photo archives feel like a magic box of candy to me, and video archives are even one step better; this one's especially intoxicating, because it's so rich. The colors, the costumes, the floats ... it's gorgeous.

So it has been a day for flourishes and parades, for pancakes and donuts. It has been a zesty and dramatic flying aim at the moon.

The other side of this day is the inside part, the contemplative part, the time when many of us will either give up something we enjoy or will add on something that is good for us spiritually. Or, for some, it is just fun. Plain and lovely fun.

Are you planning any Lenten observations? Do you use this time as a lift to your spiritual life? I'll be blogging soon about Lent, once I decide what special thing will mark my Lent this year.

It is a tough year in America. I'd like my Lent to have some meaning. I'd like it to be something other than the gazing at my own spiritual navel. So we'll see. I'm sure to keep you posted,and I am absolutely looking forward to hearing what plans you may be making for Lent, right after you finish those pancakes and donuts!

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