Lent may be meant to be a season for penitence and meditation, but the day before it starts is anything but. Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, is traditionally a raucous, often drunken, usually bawdy and sometimes indictable celebration. It’s the last hurrah before observant Christians begin the season of self denial. On this day, they cut loose.
Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans offer probably the most famous of bacchanals, but the day is also known as Shrove Tuesday, when more subdued festivities are held even in small towns where the masks are homemade and the beverage of choice is iced tea. It is the day when sins are confessed and forgiven, or shriven, and the rich foods in the pantries are consumed prior to the forty-days’ fast.
Read the entire article in the January 2001 issue