The last day of Carnival and the day before Ash Wednesday, Fat Tuesday is a unique combination of a period festivals and feasts that lead to a time of fasting and spiritual reflection. Fat Tuesday is also known as Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) dates back to an ancient Roman festival honoring the deities Lupercalia and Saturnalia which took place in mid-February. When Christians arrived in Rome, they incorporated the Mardi Gras festival into their Lenten preparations.
Lent is the 40 day season of fasting that Christians participate in to prepare their hearts for the celebration of Christ's passion, crucifiction and resurrection on Easter Sunday.
This solemn "Fat Tuesday" feast was the last celebration for Christians before the season of Lent. The feast used up valuable meat and tasty temptations they would be abstaining from in the weeks to come.
In the United Kingdom, Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day-appropriate as the lenten season typically involves abstaining from fats, eggs and sweets! In Russia, the entire week during Shrovetide as Pancake Week.
While the French didn’t originate the medieval feast, they definitely put their unique cultural stamp on it. From parades to beignets and colorful masks, the last day of Carnival is full of elaborate costumes and lavish food sure to hold the revelers over through the upcoming long fast of Lent.
During the 16th century, their ancestors celebrated Boeuf Gras (fatted calf) which included a tradition of parading a bull decorated with flowers through the city. The decorated animal was followed through the streets by a retinue of colorfully dressed attendants and bands playing unusual instruments.
Not surprisingly, New Orleans holds the crown for Carnival and Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States. While the city is filled with French flavor and style, it's an eclectic infusion of many cultures.
Colorful green, yellow and purple King Cake and thick, savory muffuletta sandwiches along with etouffee, po’boy sandwiches and jambalya all add aroma and flavor to the atmosphere of the day.
Images courtesy of www.NationalDayCalendar.com.
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