Mardi Gras: a moment of communal joy before a season of communal fasting.
Celebrations of Mardi Gras have gained attention in popular culture, but they seriously misrepresent the Catholic intent of the holiday. Mardi Gras – aka Fat Tuesday – is the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. When you think of Mardi Gras, festivals and food come to mind. This is because Catholics are preparing for the self-sacrifice and repentance of the Lenten season. In Catholic countries, Mardi Gras offered an opportunity for households to use up the foods they would not enjoy again until Easter. (Like butter, eggs, lard, meat, milk, sugar, etc.) These would be turned into rich treats to share together. Mardi Gras was thus a moment of communal joy before a season of communal fasting.
Certain cities around the world like Venice, Rio de Janeiro, and New Orleans have become known for elaborate festivities leading up to Mardi Gras. (In fact, in Louisiana, Mardi Gras in an official state holiday.) These festivals are usually known as Carnival – meaning "Farewell to Meat" – a name that conveys the celebration’s religious character.
In summary, the original intent of Mardi Gras has always been to indulge, within the context of Catholic morality and reason. So, take this opportunity to enjoy good food and good company in preparation for our next Liturgical Season!