Mardi Gras 2016
No secret that I’m from New Orleans. Part of my soul is purple, green and gold! As this year’s Mardi Gras rolls through my hometown, I’m missing it something fierce.
The Mardi Gras is the last day of the Carnival season that began on The Twelfth night to some as the last day of Christmas. The celebrations and balls begin on the Christian holy day known as Epiphany or “Three King’s Day.”
Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday.” The name comes from the Christian practice of eating as much rich and fatty foods – as well as indulging in other vices – for one more day. On Ash Wednesday, those who follow the practice, give these foods and vices up for the Lenten season of forty days and nights (the weekends don’t count. I checked!). From this practice is why the word “carnival” is used for the season. The loose Latin translation from the word definition is “caro, carn-“ meaning ‘flesh’ and “levare” meaning ‘put away.’
Why do these Christian things even fall on my radar as a pagan? The voluntary abstinence of these foods and vices and that the practice ends on Easter.
Know how the date Easter is determined? Get this:
“*Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or after the day of the vernal equinox. This particular ecclesiastical full moon is the 14th day of a tabular lunation (new moon). And the vernal equinox is fixed as March 21. As a result, Easter can never occur before March 22 or later than April 25. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, Easter falls on the next Sunday. Therefore, Easter may fall on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25.”
How is the date of Mardi Gras chosen? Glad you asked:
“Mardi Gras is usually set 47 days before Easter. For example, in 2008, Easter fell on March 23. Therefore, Mardi Gras was Feb. 5. In any given year, Mardi Gras will fall on any Tuesday between Feb. 3 and March 9.”
Ah yes, the Vernal Equinox, or as the pagans and Wiccans call it Ostara! This year Ostara will fall on March 20th with Easter, seven days later on March 27th. Neat, eh?
So here we go.
The practice of abstinence as a spiritual tool is not new. It goes hand in hand with the practice of indulgence. The main foci for both these practices are conscious discipline – spiritual or not- and balance. Within the pagan Wheel of the Year, the dark half of the year begins at Samhain (Halloween). We notice that the daylight hours get shorter. I notice that the wind gets colder. I sometimes notice that I haven’t quite prepared for the winter months that are coming.
The true test of my will to survive happens at Winter Solstice (near Christmas), where the longest night falls. Can I make it to Imbolc? I decide that I have to survive – somehow. To lift my spirits, I have celebrations, reminding myself of the light that is to come if I just hold on. Yes, I purposely celebrate a little too much to remind of me that the light that will return.
When Imbolc comes, I see the stirring of life in the land again, despite that occasional snowstorm or flood. I celebrate and dance. I see that there’s still food leftover from parties and preparations. Got to eat it before it goes bad!
Then the realization sets in. Time for partying will be over once the spring arrives. I’ll have to get back to work, back to traveling, and back to taking care of the tribe. This is the time to get balance out the partying. I put away the celebration decorations and get ready. Spring is coming. While I indulged myself before, now it’s the time to abstain. As much as I want to keep partying until the summer, I won’t have anything prepared to actually do the partying. I gotta find a way to pay for fest and food right?
Before I know it? I look up to see the daylight is longer. The trees are beginning to bud again. I’ve made it! I made it to spring! This is the time to clean out the cupboards. Spring cleaning anyone? I’m ready. I’ve spent six weeks getting myself together and I’m prepared.
I’m prepared for Beltane – my birthday!