(WHTM) — Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras, is known around the world as the day before the start of the Catholic season of Lent and is associated with food and celebration. But why does it exist?
According to Merriam-Webster, Mardi Gras is actually French for Fat Tuesday. New Orleans is known for its Mardi Gras celebration the day before the season of fasting and penitence begins.
Since Lent is a holy season, devout people were supposed to go to confession, which lead to the day being called Shrove Tuesday in England during medieval times. Merriam-Webster says that the word shrove comes from the word shrive, which is an archaic verb meaning “to confess one’s sins, especially to a priest.”
Because Lent is a season for fasting, it really does make sense that households would eat all the things that were forbidden during Lent. This included meat, eggs, and dairy before Ash Wednesday approached. Hence, Shrove Tuesday was also called Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.
Merriam-Webster also says that French colonists introduced the term to the Americas during the 1600s, but the tradition of partying or having a carnival before Lent originated in Rome.
Original celebrations lasted longer, with it starting on the Epiphany, or January 6, but, popes in later years only allowed for the partying to happen the last few days leading up to Ash Wednesday. The carnival tradition started in Italy and went to the rest of Catholic Europe. In England, the idea of using up eggs and fat before Lent led to another name, which is Pancake Day.
So, eat up and celebrate before Ash Wednesday! It’s been going on for centuries!