Mardi Gras is best known as a raucous event that takes place in New Orleans, LA and other areas around the world in January and February. Fat Tuesday, the final day of Mardi Gras, can occur in March depending on the calendar year and how it corresponds to the Christian liturgical calendar. While Mardi Gras may be legendary for scantily clad costumes, delicious food, overflowing spirits, and many acts of debauchery. Many people — particularly non-Christians — may not know what the celebration is truly all about.
Mardi Gras Has A Christian History?
Mardi Gras (/ˈmɑːrdiɡrɑː/), also called Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday, in English, refers to events of the Carnival celebrations, beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday.2
Roots of this holiday actually lie in the Christian calendar. Mardi Gras, suppose to serve as the last day in a period of merrymaking that historically takes place during the Carnival season. For many Christians, that Carnival period starts with the Epiphany, or when Jesus Christ is revealed as the Son of God, which occurs a few days after Christmas. The tradition of the King’s Cake, or a cake baked with a coin, bead or plastic baby doll inside, that is common during Mardi Gras, has its origins in Epiphany celebrations.
The King’ symbolizes the Christ child. Fun and good cheer continue during the next month, and the merrymaking eventually reaches its pinnacle on Mardi Gras. The actual name “Fat Tuesday” comes from the tradition of slaughtering and feasting upon a fattened calf on the last day of Carnival. To the very religious, Mardi Gras is also called “Shrove Tuesday,” from “to shrive” or hear religious confessions before Lent.
Good Times Must End
Many may wonder why good times must end on Fat Tuesday and not continue thereafter. That’s because Christian Mardi Gras is the final day before Lent begins. Lent is a period of 40 weekdays that, in the Christian Church, devoted to fasting, abstinence and penitence. The traditional purpose of Lent is to prepare believers for the annual commemoration of how Jesus gave up his life for his followers, and the miracle that was His Resurrection, and his eventual ascension into heaven. Participating in the Lenten season is a practice that is common to the many sects of Christianity, including Catholics, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists. It has also slowly gained favor with other denominations that have historically not participated in Lent.
Today people think of Mardi Gras a a huge wild party and other inappropriate behavior. You will see the world and religious aspect of many holidays. The world wants to take over these holidays and make them secular. The religious wants to take the world our try to compete with secular holidays. Many holidays like Mardi Gras is a great time to witness and share Jesus Christ and bring light to dark places.