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Fat Tuesday!

By February 15, 2024Devotional

Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday and, of course, Fat Tuesday are all different names for the same day in the liturgical calendar. Yesterday was the beginning of Lent – the beginning of a time of penance and reflection before the events of Easter when we celebrate the Risen Christ after three days in the tomb following his crucifixion.

There are many traditions that are celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. Since dairy products, eggs and fats are traditionally not part of the Lenten diet, they are consumed in abundance prior to Ash Wednesday. That is how, at least according to history, Fat Tuesday got its name. It was time to use up these supplies before they spoiled since they weren’t to be eaten during Lent. By the way, this is also why Fat Tuesday is sometimes also referred to as “Pancake Tuesday.”

The season of Mardi Gras begins on January 6th, which most people don’t realize. That is the night of the twelfth day of Christmas – Epiphany. Of course, the main celebrations occur during the last week of so of the Mardi Gras season before the beginning of Lent, which is 47 days before Easter!

The name Mardi Gras actually means “Tuesday Fat” and is commonly referred to as a day of celebration, including king cake and many other festivities that occur in New Orleans, other southern cities as far north as Natchez, MS and select foreign cities around the world.

You may have noticed that beads are also commonly worn during Mardi Gras. These consist of the colors of purple, green and gold seen during the season today. Purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold represents power. The throwing of beads during parades symbolizes the tradition of a monarch tossing gems into the crowds of people who have come out to celebrate this day.

Another name, Shrove Tuesday, gets its name from the word “shrive”, which means “to administer the sacrament of confession to; to absolve.” Since the Lenten season is a time of reflection and is considered a penitential season before the celebration of Easter, it makes sense that Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras and several other regional names are all used to describe this day before Ash Wednesday.

One other thing – a large part of the celebration of Mardi Gras is the baking of what is referred to as a “king” cake. This decadent offering is a cross between a sweet cake, pastry and bread. It is almost always baked in the shape of a circle or “crown” symbolizing the crown that would be worn by a king. It is covered in icing and decorated with the colors of purple, gold and green – like the colors of beads that are used throughout New Orleans.

New Orleans was also the birthplace of baking a small “baby” token in the cake. The figure, representing Jesus, is part of the king cake and whoever finds this figurine in their slice of the delicacy is said to have good luck for the next year and will also provide the king cake for the next year’s celebration,

While this tradition was typically part of the Epiphany celebration, a more modern version also uses the king cake in the Fat Tuesday festivities. On a completely different note, when I was very young, our parents took us to New Orleans and we were able to tour the facility where the Mardi Gras gowns were kept for posterity. It was near Arnaud’s Restaurant and to this day, I remember being dazzled by the complexity and beauty of the clothes that were worn by the ladies of the day.

Our verse for tonight comes from the climax of the book of Revelation, written by the apostle John. It is the compilation of events that he witnessed in heaven through a vision and reveals the ultimate reign of Jesus throughout all eternity. John tells us, referring to Jesus, in Revelation 19:12,16, “His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself… On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

My encouragement this evening is that Jesus is the ultimate answer for all eternity. As we enter this time of penance and reflection during the season of Lent, my prayer is that we will all realize the sacrifices that God made to draw us to Himself when His Son was crucified. However, we also look forward to the celebration of Easter and our eventual triumphant entry into heaven. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

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