Many people who are unaware of its origin associate Mardi Gras with the depictions from New Orleans that celebrate with booze, beads and what seems to be a grand celebration of ‘sin.’
However, it is not a celebration of ‘sin’ but a celebration of the coming of Lent.
Mardi Gras also known as Fat Tuesday, refers to events of the carnival celebrations, beginning on or after the Epiphany or King’s Day and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for ‘Fat Tuesday,’ reflecting the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting during the Lenten season.
Related popular practices are associated with celebrations before the fasting and religious obligations associated with the season of Lent. The date of Fat Tuesday also coincides with that of celebrations of what is called Shrove Tuesday, from the word shrive, meaning ‘confess.’
Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, parades, debauchery, and much more. Similar expressions of ‘Mardi Gras’ appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition, as it is associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.
Mardi Gras is not observed nationally throughout the United States. Yet in many areas, the term ‘Mardi Gras’ has come to mean the whole period of activity related to the celebratory events—beyond just the single day.
The festival season varies from city to city, as some traditions consider Mardi Gras the entire period between Epiphany or Twelfth Night and Ash Wednesday. Others treat the final three-day period before Ash Wednesday as the Mardi Gras.
Food and costumes play an important part in the celebration of Mardi Gras. Pancakes are a traditional food associated with Mardi Gras in some areas. Pancakes and related fried breads or pastries made with sugar, fat, and eggs are also traditionally consumed at this time in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. Other places celebrate with the foods relative to New Orleans, such as red beans and rice, and fish. All celebrate with the King’s Cake that is baked with a ‘small plastic baby’ inside as a representation of the King.
While some ‘go all out’ with their costumes and decorations, others celebrate with decorations that also reflect the colors associated with Mardi Gras: purple, gold, green and white.
Mardi Gras at Clark
Every year the members of Community Ministries at Clark Memorial UMC, gather in the fellowship hall of the church for Mardi Gras. This year is no different.
On Tuesday, February 17, the public is invited to share in an evening of great food, fun and fellowship at Clark Memorial UMC, 1014 14th Ave. N. from 6-9 pm.
Those attending are encouraged to wear a Mardi Gras costume or the Mardi Gras colors of gold, green, purple and/or white. And, of course, the costume is not complete without beads of all colors!
“Wear your own beads or get some from the church,” said Harriett Rogers, chair of Community Ministries. “It’s interesting to see the many specialty beads that people have collected over the years, but we have plenty to share with everyone,” Rogers said.
This Mardi Gras celebration is complete with all the exciting components of Mardi Gras.
Music is provided by Play It Again Sam, and ‘old school music’ DJ who entertains with old school dance music, the Mardi Gras march song and the ‘Electric Slide.’
Participants will also be entertained with a Mardi Gras feast of foods, including: beans and rice, fish, gumbo, corn, desserts of all kind, and of course: the ‘King Cake.’
“We look forward to coming to the church for Mardi Gras for good clean fun for the entire family,” said a member of the community. “It is great to show the kids how the church welcomes fun and fellowship that is not only formal church service.”
As Mardi Gras is said to be the last day of overindulgence before the Lenten season, during which many will be fasting, an Ash Wednesday service will be held the following night on February 18, at 7 pm. Members from Gordon Memorial UMC will fellowship with Clark members at that service.
For more information, contact the church at 615-329-4464. Clark Memorial is located at 1014 14th Ave. N. where the pastor is Rev. Kennard Murray.