Mardi Gras: A Christian Festival? #bigread2011

“Historians tell us that the ancient Romans probably kicked off the Mardi Gras celebrations. Their mid-February festival known as Lupercalia honored the god Lupercus, alternately known as the god of fertility and the god of agriculture and pastoral shepherds. In either case, his party definitely had Mardi Gras-like qualities, including days of feasting and drinking. And a little enjoying the “pleasures of the flesh”, probably, too — in fact, the term Carnival, often synonymous with Mardi Gras, is derived from the Latin expression meaning “farewell to the flesh.”

Like most of the ancient Roman and Greek festivals, Lupercalia was adopted and adapted by the Church as a way of subtly converting the local pagans to Christianity. The carnival-like celebration of Lupercalia thus morphed into a last “fling” before the beginning of the Lenten period. Lent refers to the 40 days of pertinence and purification celebrated between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. During Lent, the religiously faithful refrain from a number of indulgences of the “flesh”, including eating meat.

What began as a Roman-based celebration quickly spread across the European continent. By medieval times, lords were hosting carnivals prior to Lent in honor of the conscription of their new knights. Each region and country celebrated their own traditions, but all were indulgent. In England, for example, pancake feasts were served — a tradition that lasts until today. Shrove Tuesday, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, is widely known in the UK as “Pancake Tuesday” and is celebrated with pancake-eating competition and pancake races.”

Extract taken from Holidays.Net

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