Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Happy Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras in North Louisiana always makes me want to laugh and cringe at the same time. We seem to have appropriated all of the party, while relatively few will actually honor the religious season of fasting that is supposed to follow.

Ash Wednesday - tomorrow - begins a serious, somber period of fasting and reflection for Catholics and mainline Christians (our Orthodox friends began on Sunday). But here in Shreveport, where most folks belong to Evangelical, non-liturgical traditions, that season is not recognized. For example, a couple of neighborhoods are even having parades this weekend!

All we have to do is look to the words behind the season to remember. The word carnival comes from the Latin words meaning "to take meat away." Mardi Gras is the last day for folks to eat their meat and sweets.

Mardi Gras is also called Shrove Tuesday. In previous generations, it was the day folks went to confession, so they could do their penance during Lent. Today that terms lives on in Shrove Tuesday pancake dinners, such as the one at Shreveport's St. James Episcopal Church tonight. The pancakes were a way to use up all the milk and eggs in the house, which at one time were not permitted during Lent (and still aren't for Orthodox Christians).

So enjoy your King Cake! (I'm eating my last piece as I write this) Tomorrow, you can start worrying about whether chicken bouillon cubes count as meat.

Photo: Krewe of Highland parade by Val Horvath/The Times

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