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Monday, February 11, 2013

Let's Carnival the Mardi Gras out of this Lent. *UPDATE*

A bit of a delay in writing, so let's start back in with something light.

How about some more discussion of upcoming holidays?! That's fun. ...Though I have just missed that big festival wash up in the Ganges. Shoot. Biggest festival going to...Though it's about scrubbing up.

So...What else do we have coming up. ...Oh! Lent. Great.

You expecting me to put up pictures of
flagellation or people nailed up on crosses? Hmm?
You'll have to go elsewhere to fulfill that fetish.
Well, in India they go wash off the sins. Christians are "giving something up for a bit." Kind of the same. And, a lot of people do it...By which I mean a lot of people say they've given something up for Lent...Christianity needs more pilgrimages. Of course, for Lent, some people like to take long walks...with crosses on their backs. I could also bring up the faithful that engage in self-flagellation, like on Good Friday. Or the people that actually get themselves NAILED TO A CROSS. How about the guy that somehow nailed himself up? ...I believe the big idea is that Jesus died for your sins, right? That's kind of key to why Lent, Easter, etc are so important, right? ...So, why are you all trying to kill yourselves?

Actually, let's consider Lent, but even more fun, the party before it...

You deserve a miracle today.
And if you eat one of these,
you'll need it.
But first, the Lent thing. Now, if you aren't Christian, or don't pay attention while the boring people up front at church jibber jabber (That's fine. It's why the quiet mode on your phone exists.), Lent is a 40 day period of fasting, by which people mean they give something up (chocolate, beer, cigars, brussel sprouts, etc.). The reason being, that Jesus went into the desert for 40 days and did without. It's like what the mystics in some areas of Asia do. And not at all does someone slips the mystic the occasional Big Mac when no one is looking. And I'm not saying Jesus was slipped a Big Mac. They hadn't been invented yet.

So, 40 days in the desert for Jesus and 40 days without something you choose to do without. True, in olden days things were more severe, and enforced. They worked to keep people from eating animals or animal products. Though it varied from place to place, and pricks in power to pricks in power. (And, of course, St. Patricks occurs during Lent, which led to some modified rules. But maybe we can discuss that in March.)

And don't worry, their are nutters who still take it way too serious and try to outdo each other. But I'm not sure if that makes them more pious or not. And, of course, this being religious numerics, 40 days will vary in length depending on your given denomination. And that's Lent. Yeah, it's boring.

Fun time! Let's talk about what you do before Lent. And by you, I don't just mean the overly pious and eager to sacrifice for 40 days crowd. Oh no. We ALL enjoy a bit of pre-Lenten religion. This means FAT TUESDAY/Shroves Tuesday. Yeah, okay, their is a certain love of giving days of the week quirky adjectives. Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday. It's sad, such a busy schedule so there's no room for Manic Monday or Ruby Tuesday.

But Fat Tuesday is really what people care about.

It's the day before the start of Lent (Ash Wednesday), so, like with many deprivation rituals throughout human history, before going without, you gorge and gorge and party hard. Before Ash Wednesday starts, you got to taste and partake, and overdo it, with the various foods that would no longer be available for 40 days. In most cases, it was fatty foods, hence the name it's been given.

Of course people don't go without as much now. And many of us like the idea of Fat Tuesday for it's core, an excuse to have a party. But that's how most cultural/religious celebrations go, they start serious, then if they are worth repeating they get shone down to their best aspects, the fun (Fat Tuesday is a reason to celebrate, Christmas is a reason to celebrate, Halloween is a reason to celebrate, etc.).

And as Fat Tuesday has persisted, and the whole give it all up for Lent waned, the party didn't shrink. But, come on, who would race to cram in as much of whatever they're giving up this year on Fat Tuesday? Screw that! We all want to drink and party? So, now, it's more a reason to party and puke. And it has become an artistic exercise. It's taken on bigger and grander traditions that are something worth partaking.

Rio De Janeiro
Bourbon Street, New Orleans
For centuries it's done in Europe, in some particularly famous spots along the Mediterranean. But where it is more famously done today is in the New World. In Rio De Janeiro, Brazil it's known as Carnival, speaking to the days of celebration leading to the finale on Tuesday. In New Orleans, Louisiana it's Mardi Gras (the French for Fat Tuesday). While it is called this in New Orleans, it is a long raucous celebration there as well. And as you can see in the images it's far more now then food and drink. It is a spectacle. It's a chance to congregate (with friends, family, and people you've just met), to sing, to dance, to step out of the normal of your life. From Samba to bead collection to the particular floats abound to the new sights, tastes, and sounds, these can quite an experience (Though I haven't been myself.). Of course Rio and New Orleans are not the be all and end all of the Carnival experience. From the rural parishes of Louisiana to Moscow, plenty celebrate in their own ways. So, please, feel free to share the experience in the areas you live in.

I also feel I'd be remiss to not note that there have been some unsavory aspects that have arose in these celebration. It's much of what you find at every festival. And if you go looking for images and videos of these events, you will see the less seemly side quickly. In the mix of crowds, noise, drinking, and excess, if you do go, always be smart and aware.

But, even if you won't be leaving your apartment or snow bound farm this week. Take some time to celebrate, find what brings you joy.

We all deserve any excuse to do so.




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ADDENDUM:

Valentines Day! That's a holiday I could have covered. ...Gee. No idea why that one slipped my mind.

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