Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mardi Gras: the last drink without ashes in it

If you're from the Caribbean, today is Mardi Gras, the last day of a weeklong celebration known as Carnival, which leads into Ash Wednesday and Lent. If you're from New Orleans or otherwise follow the lead of the Big Easy, today is the last day of Mardi Gras, a weeklong celebration that leads into Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Either way, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

The cynic might look at the Mardi Gras celebration as an attempt by the faithful to squeeze in as much last-minute fun and debauchery as possible. After this, it's off to the confessional and time to put on an appropriately penitent show to satisfy the sad-sack priests during Lent.

This misses the point. While God surely does want us to keep ourselves free of wrongdoing, let's not forget that God wants us to enjoy ourselves and one another. Read the Hebrew Scriptures honestly and one thing you'll keep seeing is one festival after another, with both eating and drinking. Jesus' first miracle was even to provide a better wine for the wedding at Cana than what the groom's family had provided. People might overdo it getting Bourbon-faced on Shit Street, but Mardi Gras falls into that category. (There's even an entire book of the Bible about the unmitigated joys of having sex.) Enjoy yourself, God tells us. Live a little.

Lent is the 40-day period that leads up to the events of Good Friday, when Christians of all stripes traditionally mark the Crucifixion. It's a liturgical marker of the time between when first Jesus and then his disciples realized that things were not going to go the way they had first hoped, and when things got as absolutely bad as they possibly could.

Carnival is a time for wine and celebration, a season for living large and loving life for all that it gives us. Mardi Gras marks the end of that season.

Tonight is the night we celebrate. It is the last bottle, the last cup, the last drink we will have before we find that there are ashes in our wine.

Copyright © 2017 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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