It is so easy to get caught up in the wild parties and debauchery of Mardi Gras, that we forget about the Lenten tradition that follows. How many of us know the history of Mardi Gras? How and when it was started? I certainly didn’t. So, off to the interwebz I went!
Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.
The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced as far back as medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons. From here, the traditional revelry of "Boeuf Gras," or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies.
On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, and named it "Pointe du Mardi Gras" when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America's very first Mardi Gras.
By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras. Dazzling gaslight torches, or "flambeaux," lit the way for the ‘krewe's' members and added to the festivity. Krewes are the people who put parades and activities together during Mardi Gras.
The tradition of throwing beads and other trinkets, known as ‘throws,’ during Mardi Gras parades was established in 1870 by Mardi Gras krewe the Twelfth Night Revelers.
All that purple, green and gold you see during Mardi Gras? Yep, that has meaning too! Purple is for justice, gold is for power and green is for faith. The Grand Duke of Russia chose these in 1857.
Since then Mardi Gras parties have gotten bigger and better with much decadence ensuing. But even in New Orleans the party must end and tradition must follow. Mardi Gras parties end promptly at midnight and revelers are shuffled off the streets when Ash Wednesday begins.
Mardi Gras is a long-standing tradition of the Catholic Church and it marks the last day of ordinary time before the start of Lent, a time of fasting and repentance.
As Catholic Christianity spread throughout Europe during the first millennium, different cultures celebrated the last day before Lent in their own ways, adapting the practices to suit their cultures. In France, the holiday became particularly popular as people feasted on foods that would be given up during the forty days of Lent. Meats, eggs, and milk were finished off in one day.
So, now you and I both know a little bit more about the history of Mardi Gras. But here’s the real question. Why in the world is Mardi Gras on a different date each year…back to interwebz!
In order to calculate the date for Mardi Gras, we must first figure out when Easter is. Easter will always fall on the first Sunday following the full moon that falls on or after the vernal equinox. Got that? So this year, the vernal equinox is March 20th. After March’s full moon. Therefore Easter will fall Sunday, April 20th after April’s full moon on the 15th. With me so far? Now that we have Easter, we now count back 47 days. That’s 40 days and 40 nights, not counting Sundays. You have officially found Ash Wednesday. Of course we know, Mardi Gras – or Fat Tuesday – is the day before Ash Wednesday! Now, go ahead and figure out when Mardi Gras will be next year…I’ll wait.
When I was growing up Friday nights during Lent with my grandparents meant one thing. Cheese pizza. See, I’m not much of a fish eater, so my Lenten options were pretty limited. Older now, with a somewhat expanded palate, I have found that while I’m still not a fan of finfish (say that 3 times fast!) I do like seafood – shrimp, crab, lobster etc. so my Lenten meal options are a bit more diverse. Jimmy Webb told me that pretty much all he ate on Fridays during Lent was fish sticks. So here we are, two grown adults with nothing better to eat during lent than pizza and fish sticks? That just won’t stand. So we have a lot of great Lenten recipes throughout this issue. Our intern Rita is sharing one of her favorite ‘Lent friendly’ recipes. Francis Daniele from Cloud 9 has a sweet treat for you along with a Lenten seafood spectacular, and Tom Springman from the Country Store in Pennsdale has a couple of Mardi Gras/Creole recipes that will help you celebrate Fat Tuesday like a true southerner.
Oh! I almost forgot…
I’m Going to Jail!
I always had a feeling this time would come. I wasn’t sure of the circumstances, but I knew it was just a matter of time. I’m going to jail. Prison. The big house. The clink. At least my first foray into time behind bars is for a good cause.
On March 19th I am participating in the MDA Lock-Up. This event, hosted at the Cellblock (How apropos!) is to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in their fight to find a cure for MD and other muscle diseases.
As it turns out, my Aunt Judy has had some bail money set aside for me for ages (I guess she always had a feeling about me), but is a little short of my goal, so I am asking my wonderful Webb Weekly family for help. I have set a goal to raise $3,000 before I head to the slammer. Can you help me reach my goal?
Now I know that you are thinking… “Hey Steph, if I send you bail money, what exactly does it go towards?” Well, let me tell you.
• $30 funds one flu shot.
• $74 funds one minute of research.
• $100 pays for one support group session.
• $800 sends one child to MDA Summer Camp.
• $1,480 funds 20 minutes of research.
If we can hit my $3,000 goal, together we can fund a whole cabin at MDA Summer Camp!
If you want to help the MDA, and get me out of jail please send your donations to
C/O Webb Weekly
280 Kane St., Suite 2
South Williamsport, PA 17702
Please make checks payable to MDA. There are also links on our Facebook page to make secure online donations. Just head over to fb.com/webbweekly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to ‘Like’ us while you are there! Or you can go to http://www2.mda.org/goto/stephnordstrom.
MDA is dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and other neuromuscular diseases. At the same time, the Association provides health care and support services for people living with these diseases — right here in our community. Together we can Make a Muscle and Make a Difference.