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The Meaning of Fat Tuesday

new orleans mardi gras flambeau 2 Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras as it’s said in French is actually a very ancient holiday dating way back to Roman times and even before then apparently. During those days it was a pagan religious holiday which was celebrated in all manner of debauchery. It was that special time of year in which everyone had the license to do anything and to engage in what would be considered uncivil and morally reprehensible behavior. Hence the reason for masks. By wearing a mask you could act like a fool or copulate with anyone you wanted and no one could tell who you were. What an idea!

As Christianity took hold the Church tried to get rid of this pagan day of celebration. But, alas, it was so firmly entrenched in society that it became nearly impossible to accomplish. So what did they do? They incorporated it into the Church holy-days which had the effect of lessening the extremes of the Mardi Gras season. In other words what you might see on Bourbon Street is mild, mild, mild compared to what it used to be before the early Christian era.

So traditionally in the Catholic Church it was meant to be a day of celebration and going all out in preparation for the forty days of Lent signalled by Ash Wednesday the day after Mardi Gras. Lent is the time of repentance, of fasting, of giving up something in honor of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.

You see, Mardi Gras is really a Catholic holiday, a religious holiday if you will. In many ways it marks the beginning of Lent. And in New Orleans it’s a celebration everyone, no matter your creed or beliefs, is invited to.

Posted in New Orleans Culture.

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