In Theory

February 19, 2010

New Orleans and other cities around the globe this week marked Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday.” It’s a celebration of excess that comes the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Christianity’s Lenten period, in which people will fast and observe other Christian rituals through to Easter Sunday. For those of you who are Catholic or Christian leaders in the community, could you describe how you celebrate Mardi Gras and explain what meaning it holds for you? And for you non-Christian religious leaders, is there an equivalent to Mardi Gras in your religion’s traditions?

“Mardi gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday;” “carnival” is from the Latin “carne” and “vale,” and means “goodbye, meat”! Most Episcopalians/Anglicans call the day before Ash Wednesday “Shrove Tuesday.” “Shrove” comes from “shriven,” an Old English term for “confession.”

Shrove Tuesday traditions were to be “shorn” of sins, by self-examination and repentance before starting one’s Lenten pilgrimage; of eggs, sugar and butter in the larder, because these could be taboo during one’s Lenten fast; and of hair. Remember that a haircut was a very rare medieval activity, and, as with baths, once a year was par for the course.


Our personal hygiene may have improved, but we all still have the need to “clean up our act.” Lent is an opportunity to do so!

(The Very Rev’d Canon) Peter D. Haynes

Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church

Corona del Mar

In Islam we do not have anything that resembles “Mardi Gras,” in which Muslims would indulge in excessive feasts. In fact, Muslims are advised to maintain balance in all aspects of our life, from eating to sleeping to working to family, even worshiping.

Although we may see Muslims over-indulging in the breaking of the fast meals during the month of Ramadan, this is not the spirit or intent of the message of the Ramadan fast.

Islam teaches moderation. Ali Ibn Abi Talib, a great Muslim figure, said our stomachs should not be made as dumping grounds, and that our mattress should not be too comfortable to oversleep.

Our state of being, according to Islam, is to be in a state of God-consciousness and to be ambassadors on Earth working righteousness. Thus, if we are in remembrance of God, we would not over indulge ourselves.

Sayed Moustafa Al-Qazwani

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