Mardi Gras, (Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day) anticipates Ash Wednesday and Lent. Although used synonymously with the Carnival ("farewell to the flesh") celebration, Mardi Gras is one day. It is also called "Shrove Tuesday." "Shrove" or "shriven" means to be purged. Here are activities for Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent.
Mardi Gras is the last day of ordinary time before Lent, the 40-day spiritual pilgrimage that follows Christ on his journey through the desert and temptation by Satan. As Jesus was tested and tempted and fasted, Catholics are called to refrain from self-centered practices. The principal virtues of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. At Ash Wednesday Mass, the first religious event of Lent, the faithful are marked with ashes and told to "turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."
For Catholics, Mardi Gras is more than just a day to party before the fasting begins. The traditional name "Shrove Tuesday" more accurately reflects the purpose of Mardi Gras. To be shriven means to be purged of sin and purified by acts of confession and reconciliation in the Sacrament of penance. One important way to celebrate Shrove Tuesday, for Catholics, is to go to confession. You can also spend time in prayer and repentance. Some families attend prayer services. Prayer is one of the three major Lenten observances.
My blog Catholic Activities has free and printable prayer and devotional activities to guide your Lenten observances. Almsgiving or sharing with those in need, specifically material goods is the third facet of Lenten spiritual exercises. Here are service projects and giving ideas are listed to help you.
Traditionally, during Lent, people abstain from eating any meat, sugar, sweets, oil, butter and fats (hence the term "Fat Tuesday"). To use up these ingredients so they would not be in the home during Lent (and hence a temptation), Catholics made pancakes. Here are Fat Tuesday Pancake Day recipes to share and enjoy.
Fasting is a Lenten spiritual exercise. Catholics fast from meat on Fridays (in remembrance of the death of Jesus). Many give up chocolate or other sweets. Fasting is particularly healthy for everyone, not just Catholics. It purges the body of less healthy foods. Fasting helps the mind focus on spiritual things. Lenten fasting resembles the dietary laws of other religions, notably Kashrut (kosher) Jewish laws, Buddism and Muslim Ramadan fasting practices. I've written meatless, sugar-free, low-fat recipes for Lent. I call them collectively The Lenten Kitchen. Here is the blog Great Food 4U, to get you started cooking the Lenten Way. Check out the vegetarian and vegan recipes listed, too.
Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben writes from 25-plus years teaching K-8, special needs and adult education. She writes curriculum and homeschooled her four children. She writes about parenting issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
- Ash Wednesday
- Pancake Day
- ordinary time