Happy Fat Tuesday! Happy Mardi Gras! Wahoo!!
I’m all about finding reasons to celebrate things. I celebrate anything that I find true, good, and beautiful; everything from National Hot Dog Day to my Baptism anniversary. Naturally, then, I have a deep appreciation for Fat Tuesday.
However, as much as I love celebrating things, I’ve learned that it’s not good to mindlessly celebrate things without intention, so I want to understand what I’m celebrating when I celebrate Mardi Gras — and I want to invite you to do the same.
Fat Tuesday: the Pre-Lent Celebration
Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, has been celebrated for years, as one last hurrah before Lenten sacrifices take a front seat. Fat Tuesday is our chance to get those last desserts in, enjoy that cup of coffee, cram in a few more episodes of what we’ve been Netflixing, or take one last look at social media before committing to sacrificing those pleasures during Lent.
Traditionally celebrated with elaborate festivals, Mardi Gras can be a really fun way to finish off the season of Ordinary Time, as long as it’s not used as an excuse to be gluttonous, greedy, or simply obnoxious. We know that the season of Lent will end in Christ’s victory on the Cross, so we celebrate before Lent, confident in the feasting that will follow the fasting.
Although Mardi Gras started as a pagan celebration, Christians adopted it and turned it into an occasion to enjoy tasty foods before fully entering into a season of fasting during Lent. It wasn’t always a wild display of gluttony and debauchery, but for Christians, was an acknowledgement of what’s to come with Lent. Celebrating and having a good time is possible without letting our senses and desire for worldly things rule us.
Don’t miss the point of Fat Tuesday. It’s a fun way to acknowledge the impending season of sacrifice, but it shouldn’t be an opportunity to grow more attached to the things we’re giving up. Rather, it’s a day where we see those things for what they are — finite things that cannot satisfy us — and acknowledge that we have no need for them, as our only true need is Christ.
Celebrate Mardi Gras and enjoy it! Wear some beads, eat some treats, enjoy some of the things you’re going to part with during Lent; but don’t treat it like a goodbye to whatever worldly sacrifice you’re going to make. Treat it like a goodbye to attachments to anything other than Jesus, and a hello to a life caught up in the love of Christ. It’s ok to enjoy worldly things (as they ought to be enjoyed) this Fat Tuesday, but we don’t mourn their loss when we enter into Lent — we see parting with them as an opportunity to grow closer to the only thing that will ever truly satisfy us: the love of Jesus.