TUESDAY, MARCH 8: Grab your pancake, paczki or king cake and enjoy today’s calorie-ridden festival with Western Christians worldwide, as they mark a day lovingly called “Mardi Gras” (literally “Fat Tuesday”)!
And while you’re packing it away, pack up with ReadTheSpirit for a remarkable online pilgrimage through Lent in the new series, Our Lent: Things We Carry.
Around the world over many centuries, Western Christians have prepared for Lenten self denial by emptying their cupboards of sugar, butter and lard on the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. (Wikipedia has details.) Rather than waste these tasty ingredients, Christians put them to good use—by making all kinds of delicious pancakes and pastries! Nearly every country has its own unique take on Fat Tuesday pancakes and pastries, some of which begin appearing in shops in the months leading up to Fat Tuesday. (Check out The Guardian for some pancake recipes.) Ironically, Poles spend this day preparing for Lent without too many paczkis—while millions of Americans gorge on this delicious treat: In Poland, Paczki Day happened last week, on Fat Thursday.
In many English-speaking countries, today is also traditionally called Shrove Tuesday, since Christians would “shrive,” or obtain absolution for sins, in preparation for Lent. (AmericanCatholic.org has more.) By releasing themselves from the pain caused by sins, Christians could enter Lent in a clean state. (The BBC breaks down Shrove Tuesday and other events of Lent.)
Absolution of sins on Shrove Tuesday may still be a tradition for some Christians, but most of the world thinks of raucus parties associated with Mardi Gras and Carnival—a name from Latin that also refers to leaving meat behind. (Stunning photos from around the world are at MSNBC.) From Rio de Janeiro to Sydney to New Orleans, elaborate costumes, parades, dances and alcohol complement the merrymaking. (USA Today has an article.) Carnival comes to a peak today, and experts estimate that New Orleans will see more visitors today than it has since before Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Earlier, we reported on preparations for Carnival and Mardi Gras—including a review of a classic Brazilian film that was a special favorite of President Obama’s mother. That film is now back in a gorgeous, re-mastered edition that lets you enjoy that Carnival beat in your own home.