Pictured: St. Roch School in St. Louis celebrated Mardi Gras with a carnival at the school.
Before Lent — a time of prayer, fasting and penance through a period of 40 days until Easter — Catholics and others celebrate with festivities known by several names.
In the United States, it’s most commonly known as Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday. The tradition includes consuming foods containing animal fat before the beginning of Lent. Catholics enjoy a day of festivities, sometimes hosting their own carnivals or parties. The largest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States takes place in New Orleans. The celebration is known as Carnival in other parts of the world.
Catholics also prepare for Lent by spiritually removing themselves of sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That is why this day is also referred to as Shrove Tuesday
, from the old English word shrive
, meaning to confess all sins.
Some countries, including England and Ireland, celebrate Pancake Day by consuming what else — pancakes. For centuries, it’s been a tradition to eat pancakes or other foods made with butter, eggs and fat, which would be given up during Lent.
No matter what it’s called, the day before Lent is a reminder of the sacrifice that is to come in the next 40 days. We also are reminded of the sacrifices Jesus made as he fasted and prayed for 40 days after his Baptism and before the beginning of his ministry.
Catholics are called to fast, pray and confess sins during this penitential season. For more ideas on making a good Lent, see page 16. To see the Lenten guidelines, visit bit.ly/2IRu0Od
. To read more about Lent and find the St. Louis Review’s fish fry map, see www.archstl.org/lent