- (Photo: Reuters/Sean Gardner)
Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is being celebrated around the world today as Lent draws near. This holiday, however, has two very different observances leading up to Ash Wednesday.
While many enjoy Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, as a time of indulgence and possible gluttony, others spend the day in prayer, preparing their hearts and minds for the upcoming period of Lent. But where did this holiday get its start, and why are there such different means of observing the day?
Mardi Gras marks the period of time between Epiphany, the revelation of Jesus as God's son, and Ash Wednesday. Many use the final three days as a time of pure indulgence and celebration before Lent. Celebrations throughout the world include parades, sporting competitions and dancing. One of the most well-known parades, at least in the United States, takes place in New Orleans.
According to the American Catholic website, "Mardi Gras, literally 'Fat Tuesday,' has grown in popularity in recent years as a raucous, sometimes hedonistic event. But its roots lie in the Christian calendar, as the 'last hurrah' before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday."
Some, however, take a more solemn approach to Tuesday and spend the day in prayer. Fat Tuesday is also known as Shrove Tuesday, which means, "to confess." People in primarily English-speaking countries often pray and confess their sins as a way to prepare for Lent.
Pancakes are traditionally eaten on Tuesday, as they are made of simple ingredients most already have in their homes. In fact, pancakes have become so popular for the day that there are pancake races held in Buckinghamshire. Kansas and Buckinghamshire have held International Pancake Day races as part of a tradition dating back to 1950.
Tomorrow's observance of Ash Wednesday will lead Christians and believers into the period of Lent, which is a time of fasting and giving up as a reminder of the time Christ spent in the desert. But the question remains: How will you observe today? Will you spend it celebrating and indulging? Will you spend the day in prayer and confession? Or will you work to combine the two?