Saturday, 9 February 2013

Mardi Gras: A Most Catholic Festival

Mardi Gras:
A Most Catholic Festival
As a change from the norm I thought I would mention that Mardi Gras is on its way and this festival has Catholicism at its very roots. Mardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday” and it is the day before Ash Wednesday which begins the observance of Lent. Lent is observed in practicing Catholics by fasting, and Mardi Gras is a last chance to clean out the pantry of those things which would be forbidden during the coming fast. Today in the Roman Catholic Tradition, the observance of Lent involves fasting. The Catholic Church suggests both the removal of worldly distractions (fasting e.g. from food, from the internet, or from TV) and the addition of positive spiritual disciplines such as extra prayer time or Bible study. The practice of Mardi Gras before Lent is marked by good family times, celebration, and a focus on the Lenten sacrifice ahead with a time for reflection and a time to plan how best to observe Lent. Carnival translates as “goodbye to meat” or “goodbye to the flesh”.

Symbols associated with the traditional observance of Mardi Gras & their religious significance.

The Mardi Gras season begins with Epiphany where we celebrate the kings (wise men) finding Jesus. Thus we eat “King Cake.” A baby, representing the Christ Child is hidden in the cake. This represents Christ being hidden from King Herod who wanted to kill him, and the wise men not telling King Herod His whereabouts. Whoever finds the baby is representative of the wise men and has to wear a crown for the rest of the day. The Mardi Gras colours have meaning and are all originally intended to represent Christ bringing:

1. Justice - Purple
2. Faith - Green - Growth of faith
3. Power – Gold - Jesus is the King of Kings and ultimately holds all power

The ritual of throwing beads or coins is simply that of responding to another’s needs. During the Mardi Gras parades, the call is, “throw me something Mister.” The call of our world is for justice, faith and Christ, and the provision of our daily physical and spiritual needs. At its heart, Mardi Gras is a joyful celebration of life and the goodness that life brings. As Catholics, we are all about celebrations. 

After all, we celebrate Christmas for 12 days and Easter for 50 (through Pentecost). We bring to our celebrations rituals that enhance the reality behind the celebration. Just as the medieval Christians who paraded an ox through town and then feasted on the eve of each fast, today’s Christians can re-ritualise Carnival and Mardi Gras to remind us to celebrate and enjoy all the blessings life offers. Our feasting reminds us once again to be thankful to God.

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