Celebrating Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday

mardi gras, Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday

Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday is a time of great celebration in countries around the world, especially those with large Catholic populations like Brazil, Mexico, and Italy. These holidays have been around for centuries, but how well do you know their histories? Here are just a few facts that’ll help you brush up on the customs and traditions.

What is Fat Tuesday?

Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”) is also referred to as Shrove Tuesday, Carnival or Karneval. It’s reported to have originated from pagan festivals for spring and fertility. Centuries ago, however, Catholic religious leaders converted the extravagant celebrations to a prelude to Ash Wednesday and the Lent season. The term “Fat Tuesday” or Carnival (which in Latin means “farewell to meat”) comes from the overindulging in foods like meat and baked sugary treats before the fast that begins at midnight.

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is practiced by many Christians of various faiths. It is a time of reflection and prayer that lasts 40 days until Easter Sunday. There are usually church services on Ash Wednesday and religious leaders mark the worshippers with a cross symbol on their foreheads made from palm ashes. This is a sign of mourning and a way for Christians to remember that “they are dust and to dust they shall return.” For the next 40 days, worshipers will also fast as a way to renew their faith.

Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday Holiday Facts

Looking for more tidbits? Here are some extra facts you may want to know.

  • The word “Lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lengten” which means “spring.”
  • Mardi Gras first took place in America on March 3, 1699.
  • Ash Wednesday is also known by the Latin phrase “dies cinerum” or “Day of Ashes.”
  • Some of the biggest Mardi Gras or Carnival celebrations can be found in Rio de Janerio, Brazil; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Quebec City in Canada.
  • The colors usually worn by the clergy on Ash Wednesday are purple or violet.
  • Traditional Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or Carnival foods include pancakes, King’s Cakes, pączkis, and cenci pastries.