Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I was surprised by those who wrote asking about Mardi Gras. I presumed everyone knew, but in Protestant Europe it's now mostly celebrated in the abeyance.

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) or Carnival is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The celebration is as old as religion, and has been observed everywhere throughout the western world at one time or another. In ancient Rome it was Saturn's feast, a time of debauchery. Since, it has been alternately a celebration of the coming of Spring, or a religious festival.

The Church of Rome, put paid to Saturn's feast, and gradually turned the bacchanalia to something better able to serve their needs.

In once predominately Catholic countries, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and their territories, communal parties were held to to empty the larder of forbidden meat, eggs and butter before the severe Lenten fast. Pancake Day celebrations in Britain are the last vestige of this old tradition.

The first Mardi Gras celebration in the US was held in Point Mardi Gras, in now Alabama in 1699. Mobile is credited with the oldest Mardi Gras in what is now US territory (1703). As the capital of French America bounced around the gulf coast from Mobile west to New Orleans, the festival followed. Little excuse was necessary to have a party in seaport towns.

Let the good times roll.



Bob said...

Pancake Day in Britain is not the last vestige of tradition to observe Fat Tuesday prior to the Lenten season.

Shrove Tuesday pancake supers are observed in both the Episcopal & Roman Catholic diocese in Atlanta, Georgia.

Both Cathedrals and smaller parishes alike prepare for the 40 days of Lent with Shrove Tuesday pancake supers.

This glorious tradition in Anglican Communion lives on beyond the boundaries across the pond
in Britain! Thanks Be To God!

Suburban Princess said...

To be honest, I really had no idea what Mardi Gras is. Thanks for the explanation! I know some people who do the Ash Wednesday errr stuff (I have no idea what stuff that entails) but I dont think I have ever heard of anyone I know having Pancake Tuesday. I do tho have a recollection of my mom making pancakes for dinner one night when I was a child and she said it was because it was Pancake Tuesday...looking back that seems odd since we aren't catholic!

Mom on the Run said...

Bob, the Methodists in the suburbs of Atlanta host the pancake suppers as well. And the TriDelts at UGA are also having one tonight as a fundraiser for St. Jude's. Shrove Tuesday is alive and well in Georgia.

JMW said...

We have King Cake and are making the most of the big meals today, in preparation for Ash Wednesday and Lent. I'm just learning about the pankcake tradition, though. Thanks for sharing. :)

Springheel said...

I do hope you indulged today.

Shrove Tuesday was a red letter day when I was a boy because pancakes were a major treat - we ate (and still eat) them with lemon and sugar, or jam, or butter and sugar. No wonder the British are renowned for our ravaged dentition.

For many years we had big parties on the night. The memsahib would cook scores of pancakes (and eat a fair percentage of them) whilst I did my bit for Methodist/Orthodox relations by drinking a lot of very cold vodka and eating blinis and salmon. Tough work but we must all make sacrifices...

There are still pancake races over here. Now that's a folk tradition I thought would die the death but despite television, the internet and the wholesale abandonment of pretty well everything of interest...it carries on.