Mardi Gras: Traditions and Fun


Mardi Gras is Tuesday, February 12, 2013, and the celebration as we know it in the United States is a combination of traditions.

Mardi Gras is celebrated in New Orleans, Lousiana (the largest celebration of its kind in the United States) as a day of festivities, carnivals, parades, and eating rich and decadent foods.

The words Mardi Gras are French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the Christian practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual of fasting during the Lenten season (the weeks leading up to Easter in the Christian faith). In French, Mardi is the word for Tuesday and gras is the word for fat.

Traditionally in England, the day has been known as Shrove Tuesday, from the Latin word to shrive, meaning confess. In Old-English, priests of the Christian faith would shrive someone, or hear his/her acknowledgement of sins, assure him/her of God’s forgiveness, and give him/her appropriate spiritual advice. The term survives today in ordinary use of the expression to "short shrift" someone, meaning to pay little attention to their excuses or problems. A longer expression used in the English language is "to give him/her short shrift and a long rope," which refers to an earlier practice of hanging a criminal with a minimum of delay.

In earlier Christian traditions, the fat kept by a cook (i.e. butter, milk, cream, lard, fatty meats) would be used up in one decadent meal the evening before the start of Lent. Lent is a season of minimal, clean eating as Christians seek to make amendments within their life and focus inwardly with special point of self-examination. The decadent meal would often consist of pancakes, as pancakes were an easy way to use up the fattier ingredients that would spoil during the Lenten season. Because of this practice of making and eating an abundance of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, the day is also called Pancake Tuesday.

In England to this day, the day is celebrated with pancake races where contestants run foot races while carrying a griddle and flipping pancakes. Points are awarded for time, the height of flips, and the number of flips per pancake. Dropping pancakes bring penalties to the racer’s points.

The day is also called Carnival, which takes its word roots from the Latin "carni" meaning carnivorous or meat, and "vale" meaning valediction. Together Carnival means farewell to meat, one last hamburger before the Lenten, meatless season.

Are you a family who has traveled the journey of international adoption? Does the country from which you adopted have traditions surrounding Mardi Gras,Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day? Share with us. At MLJ Adoptions, Inc. we value cultural traditions from around the world. We would love to hear from you how your family celebrates Madri Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shorve Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday. Drop us a line, post a photo of your family enjoying Mardi Gras family festivities or eating a stack of pancakes!

Photo Credit: praline3001

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MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.