Mardi Gras is predominantly a Christian tradition – or at least, within certain parts of Christian tradition. The phrase is French, meaning literally, “Fat Tuesday”. It was a name for the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent – the forty day period leading up to Good Friday, often considered a period appropriate for fasting and penitence. The idea was that you would “pig out” on many fat things to compensate you for the arduous fast you are about to undergo! Whether or not there is any foundation for this practice in Christian truth, the label of Fat Tuesday has come to be attached to all manner of excess.
I can’t help thinking that this tradition comes from a fatal misunderstanding of fasting, prayer and penitence. The Bible speaks of these as good gifts, so why would anyone need compensating for them?!…
Jesus taught that fasting is a gift, where we are free not to eat for a period, so that we can enjoy more blessed fellowship with God our Father in prayer; and that it is definitely not something to be miserable about (Matt 6:16).
The Bible teaches that penitence, or repentance, is likewise a blessed gift (Ps 32:5-7), of acknowledging our sin and receiving full forgiveness through the cross of Jesus Christ.
If we realised and seized the great gifts of God the Father that are ours in Jesus Christ, that might free us from compulsion to all sorts of falsely compensating excess.
Grace and cheers, Jonathan