Monday, February 23, 2009

Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday

There is so much happening at this time of the year that it is hard to keep track of it all. In addition to this being Black History Month, we also recognize and celebrate Mardi Gras. I remember the first time I attended in New Orleans. It was spectacular. I made a point to return every year after that. I was able to attend a Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras. I liked the intimate feel that this one provided. Everyone knew everyone. My attendance ended when I moved to California. In honor of Mardi Gras I thought I would provide a little background on the holiday. This information came from
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Mardi Gras (from the French words, meaning "fat Tuesday"), or Carnival (from the Latin words carn-caro levare, meaning "removal of flesh"), is a Christian festival that embodies many traditions that originated with the ancient Greeks and Romans--relating to their gods and religious festivals honoring spring fertility rites.

In the early Middle Ages, the Catholic Church was unable to abolish all of these ancient traditions after converting pagan tribes to Christianity. The Church was forced to adapt many ancient feasts and festivals, originally celebrated in honor of pagan gods, to Christian beliefs. Today, revelers on parade floats still don the regalia of the Greek god of wine, Bacchus, during Mardi Gras celebrations.

Also known as "fat Tuesday," this pre-Lenten festival is celebrated in Roman Catholic countries and communities. In a strict sense, Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, is celebrated by the French as the last of the three days of Shrovetide and is a time of preparation immediately before Ash Wednesday and the start of the fast of Lent. Mardi Gras is thus the last opportunity for merrymaking and indulgence in food and drink. In practice, the festival is generally celebrated for one full week before Lent. Mardi Gras is marked by spectacular parades featuring floats, pageants, elaborate costumes, masked balls, and people dancing in the streets.

Mardi Gras originated as one of the series of carnival days held in all Roman Catholic countries between Twelfth Night, or Epiphany, and Ash Wednesday; these carnivals had their origin in pre-Christian spring fertility rites. The most famous modern Mardi Gras festivities are those held in New Orleans, La.; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Nice, France; and Cologne, Germany.

The first American Mardi Gras was celebrated near modern-day New Orleans on March 3, 1699. It wasn't until the mid-1800s did official parade organizations start to form with the Mystick Krewe of Comus in 1856 and the Krewe of Rex in 1872. The tradition is still carried on in New Orleans with many other krewes represented on floats in a myriad of parades.

The official colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold (representing justice, faith and power). Mardi Gras celebrations can start as early as January 6, on the feast of Epiphany. The festivities end at midnight on Tuesday--the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Mardi Gras day falls on any Tuesday between February 3 and March 9. Like Ash Wednesday, the date Mardi Gras falls on depends on the date of Easter--always occurring 46 days before Easter.

Is it any wonder that I LOVE celebrating Mardi Gras. It is vivid, filled with energy and passion, and every color of the rainbow. It resembles Ink come to life. Definitely qualifies for Inking in the Name of Love.

Until then.

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