Isn’t it interesting that the day proceeding the start of Lent is seen in some places as an all-out binge, as if to signify that one should load up to make sure that there are minimal regrets whilst one is supposed to abstain from those excesses in life? Or perhaps the idea was to give you something to think about on those long pre-spring nights, knowing how good life can be and pondering the value of what is missing and how those blessings enrich our lives?? Well, without sounding too crass I hope, I would like to suggest that whichever way you take Mardi Gras, you should take advantage of a day that encourages you to enjoy life and share that joy.
The tradition of this holiday is based in celebrating life to its fullest, in anticipation of Lent, which begins the next day. In English, it was known as Fat Tuesday in honour of the rich foods people enjoyed, or Shrove Tuesday (shrove meaning to confess). Later it became known as Pancake Tuesday, because pancakes symbolized a final meal of eggs, butter and milk before the Lenten fast. In case you missed my post last week about Groundhog Day being a way to shake you out of a winter slump, here's another bit of encouragement for you.
I know, we don’t have a parade down Bernard Street with girls in bikinis and beads, and there is no jazz band or artists in sculpted masks and flowing robes in City Park, but we can still make the most of it. After all, we do have a holiday at about the same time - Family Day falls just one day before Mardi Gras in its inaugural year. Wouldn’t it brighten a mid-February evening to have the family dress up for dinner and show off their outfits the way the bourgeois used to strut their stuff in Venice cafes? Or perhaps you would prefer to turn up the music (and maybe the heat) and adorn everyone with beaded necklaces? You could play New Orleans jazz and march around the living room, or go more exotic and add feathers – it’s like Rio! Trust me, it won’t take long before everyone is in the spirit of things… and then there is the food and drink, of course.
It’s okay – you have spent the last six weeks trying to live up to your new resolutions and improve your routine, so don’t you deserve to cut yourself a little slack? Skip the gym for a day or two and burn off that energy by dancing! Cook up your favourite specialties, or look to the traditional items for Mardi Gras – various kinds of donuts and fritters, crepes or pancakes; a "king cake" with a hidden figurine (whoever gets it in their piece has to host the next party!); sparkling wines are good, cognac works too, even fun cocktails will do the trick! Even non-alcoholic drinks look festive if you put an umbrella in them. After all, this is one of those times when the philosophy of “carpe diem” applies to the fullest extent. If your life was over the next day, what would you most want to do?
It seems to be a reminder we need often but heed rarely – to live life to its fullest, and enjoy each moment for what it brings. Even if you can’t take much time to live on the edge and get into the spirit of Mardi Gras, think about splurging a little bit on something and do it without guilt, just for the sheer enjoyment. (You can always feel guilty tomorrow!)