The celebration of Mardi Gras dates back to medieval Europe and yes, it is a Christian celebration. Mardi Gras actually begins on January 6, known as King’s Day or the Feast of Epiphany. King’s Day is the recognition of the Magi’s visit to baby Jesus which is considered the physical manifestation of Jesus to the gentiles.
The Mardi Gras, you probably know best, is usually called Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. The day before Ash Wednesday. Shrove is the past tense for shrive and means to hear a confession, assign a penance, and be free of sin. Mardi Gras is the French word for Fat Tuesday. Because this was the last day you could eat meat and other items which came from animals; i.e. butter, eggs, cheese, and fat. Pancakes are usually the main meal on Fat Tuesday.
In the United States the celebration usually starts the week or weekend before Fat Tuesday and continues until Ash Wednesday. I am not sure the early Christians meant for Mardi Gras to evolve into the raucous partying and the porn-like, carnival parades and actions we see today. In my opinion, Mardi Gras celebrations today are akin to an alcoholic going on a drinking binge and then picking a day to stop drinking. Until the same time next year, when the bingeing starts all over again.
The partying stops on Ash Wednesday which is the day signaling the beginning of the Lenten season. The sign of the cross is done on the forehead, using ashes, during the Christian worship service. This is to show humility and remind us of our own mortality. Ash Wednesday ashes come from the ashes of the palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday church service. Which are blessed and considered holy.
Then begins the Lenten season. The Lent season is about remembering Jesus’ journey into the desert where He had to resist Satan’s temptations for 40 days. During the Lenten season some Christians still fast, reflect, and pray concerning their own sins and Jesus. Most Christians today give up something they hold dear to them; like chocolate, television, Facebook, social media, swearing etc.
It is a good time to break bad habits and realign your life in Christ again. The Lent season ends on Easter with the remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Since moving to Texas, and becoming a member of a Baptist church, I find I miss my ashes and Lent season of reflection. Because I have always considered Easter as my real New Year, not January 1. Baptists are not into the ashes on the forehead and such. Maybe because it started with the Catholic religion. No, I am not Catholic either. I have been Presbyterian almost all of my life.
This year I do plan on participating in Ash Wednesday and the Lent season. No, I am not leaving the church we attend either. We love the people and the Pastor. But I will probably attend one of the nearby churches who do Ash Wednesday and the Lent season of services.
What will I give up for Lent? I am seriously thinking about sugar. It is my one huge nemesis! I am a Southern girl who loves her sweet tea and a little coffee with my cream and sugar. Giving up sugar will mean giving up things with sugar in them too, like Reese cups. Ouch that hurt.
When I stop and consider that Jesus gave up His life so that I can live forever, sugar should not be a big deal.
So, if you go to a Mardi Gras parade and/or party, please take time out to reflect on why we can even have a Mardi Gras!
God Bless You!
God Bless America!