What’s the point of Mardi Gras?


If so . . . do you know why?
If not . . . why not?

On every continent around the world people are celebrating this weekend (a season which started on 12th Night, Jan. 6th or Epiphany), culminating in a big party this coming Tuesday.

This time of year is actually a religious holiday, a continuation of the Christmas season, a time for communities, churches & families to feast together, hold masked balls (often to support charities), and join together to support important causes & needs throughout the community. There are also parades, costumes, parties, dances, music, and general Joie de vivre. If it’s done right, it takes the best bits of Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas – parading it through the streets, spawning spontaneous dancing, and bringing communities, families, churches, businesses & krewes together regardless of age, race, class or culture for the biggest party of the year.

It is called by many names such as Carnival, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Shrovetide, Pancake Day, Carnival of Binche, Carnaval de Barranquilla, Masopust, Karneval, Fasching, Martedì Grasso, Carnevale, Carnem Levare, Fettisdagen, Carnaval Ponceño, Užgavėnės, Meteņi, Maslenitsa. It can be elaborate & elegant, or over the top & extreme, or bawdy & rude, or political & rebellious, or holy & civic minded, or many other things.

It should be stated that most people who are celebrating today have no idea what or why they are celebrating – the same as all “holidays”, most are sparkly skeletons of their former sacred glory. But – still, a holiday. A time of joy & celebration.
Where I live we call this Saturday, and Tuesday will only be Tuesday. I find this incredibly sad. It is the result of the Protestant purge of all things Catholic. I fully support the cause of Reformation, and think we need another one today to rid the church of politics, money, prosperity gospel, and all remnants of racism, nationalism or judgmental ideologies that have no place in the Gospel & grace of Jesus Christ. I think the wide celebration of Carnival in each community would actually help with this. Christmas used to bring us all together – but now it’s just another excuse to wage culture wars. We need Carnival to get us all dancing together in the streets.

However, Carnival season & Mardi Gras must be followed by Lent . . . a time of personal reflection & self sacrifice. A season leading up to Easter where individuals take a close look at their lifestyle choices, give up negative habits, and seek to commit themselves to something better. There is a legitimate need for all of us to modify our behaviors to be healthier – no matter what your spiritual beliefs, and for the faithful it is essential to seek greater closeness to our Creator & Savior. Lent allows us to create space to think about our life choices and reflect where God fits into the hierarchy of things that consume our lives on a day to day basis.

So, celebrate through next Tuesday – dance, sing, eat, drink, be merry and hold your loved ones close. Then, on Ash Wednesday, start on a 40 day journey towards health, reflection, repentance, putting others first, and maybe even shed some tears & some weight in preparation for something great to come.

On every continent around the world people are celebrating this weekend (a season which started on 12th Night, Jan. 6th or Epiphany), culminating in a big party this coming Tuesday.


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