"Anyone who is not a fool at Carnival is foolish for the rest of the year."
Why don't we have Mardi Gras before Advent?
Knowing Ash Wednesday is on its way next week, and the penitential practices to which we are invited, to prepare our hearts for Easter, it's traditional for the devout Catholic to have a little Mardi Gras, "Fat Tuesday." We're about to say "farewell to meat," the origin of Carnival, Carne Vale, or candy, or television, or sleeping late on Saturdays, or whatever we push away from us to welcome more time for prayer and to free up more money or time for almsgiving and other charity. The chance to party went hand in hand with the practical decision to cook up and either eat up or give away all the prohibited meats, eggs, butter and other fats, so they wouldn't go to waste.
So little is asked of us now: able-bodied Catholics are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and refrain from meat on Fridays during Lent. We are also urged to "give up" something pleasant to us, to remind us of the greater joys won for us by the cross of Christ. I'm looking forward to it, and each year I've carefully practiced it, I find that I lose a small vice more or less permanently, because when I let it go, it lets go of me.
But why doesn't one of these feasts precede Advent? Advent is also a time of penance and prayer, less reliably understood by Christians, but most know it as a time of waiting, praying, hoping, walking the path of Joseph and Mary as they sought out the stable, marvelling with the shepherds and the three kings.
Lent is feast-fast-feast, but Advent is fast-FEAST. Do we need another Mardi Gras before Advent, or do we need to play down the Carnival aspect before Lent? Is balance needed? Heck, I don't know. Maybe you do. I've got ice cream in the freezer and a few trashy TV programs to enjoy before Wednesday.
Have a good Carnival!
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