Lent starts this week. That’s really good news for those of us who are ready for winter to be over – and I imagine that’s just about everybody. You can find the good news of winter’s imminent demise in the word Lent itself. It comes from an old English word that means lengthen, in this case it means the days are beginning to lengthen. Thank you, Jesus.
Most people know that Lent is the season that leads up to Easter; but there are a lot of special days and words associated with Lent that pass most of us by. I’m going to do a series of posts in the coming days and weeks to talk about some of the special meanings of Lent that may help you appreciate it even more. If nothing else, you can pull out some of these random nuggets of wisdom to impress your friends with how smart or religious you are.
Let’s start with Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday in English. Mardi Gras technically is not a part of Lent which begins the next day on Ash Wednesday. Although most of us associate Mardi Gras with the wild celebrations of New Orleans, it is a medieval celebration that originated in Europe and was brought to America by French colonizers. It gets its name from the practice of pious Christians who gave up fat and rich foods for Lent starting on Ash Wednesday. So, they used up their fat on the prior Tuesday in one final blow-out. Especially in New Orleans, Mardi Gras is an excuse to parteeee.
For most of us the celebration of Mardi Gras is more subdued than it is in New Orleans. Many churches and families have a tradition of serving special pancake meals, donuts, or other tasty foods on Fat Tuesday, whether or not they plan to make any sacrifices during Lent. So eat up and enjoy yourself. The lean days of Lent are coming.
Tomorrow look for Lenten Learnin’ #2, Ash Wednesday