Fat Tuesday. Carnival. Mardi Gras. No matter what we call it, it all adds up to the same thing. Letting go, giving in, having fun. It reminds me of an ancient Greek festival, where the Greeks called upon Dionysus to free them from their cares and worries, so they could allow themselves to relish in gluttonous festivity.
Unlike the Greeks who believed in many gods, for Christians, Mardi Gras is the last day we allow ourselves to cut loose before the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is a time of sacrifice, a time for any good Christian to focus on Christ’s suffering Like Jesus who fasted for forty days before his death, we give something up to communion with that suffering.
For me, the Lenten season has evolved as I have gotten older. As a child, I would give something up because I thought I had to do it. I did not understand the point, nor did I fully care if I accomplished my goal. As a teenager, I found it a good excuse to try to stick to a diet.
I understand now that I never accomplished Lenten sacrifice because I did not understand devotion. I think I finally understand the spiritual quality of the Lenten season, and I do not see giving something up as having to endure a burden, but as a way to yield for the Divine. Like a yogi in meditation, it is a chance to commune with the ethereal and take the focus off of myself. Tomorrow, I will enter my own spiritual season and offer up an indelicate worldly want.
Fat Tuesday, then, serves as a release. Like any good Christian, Fat Tuesday is my excuse for one last satiating bender. Before the sacrificing begins, the debauchery ensues.
6:30 AM Paczki! A delicious Polish pastry. As a child I remember my father purchasing these delicious jelly filled delicacies the day before Fat Tuesday. In the morning, he would pour us each a giant glass of milk, and we would savor the doughnuts together. I had not eaten a paczki in years when yesterday, my neighbor knocked on our door presenting us with a gift: a box of paczki from Kiedrowski’s Bakery.
This morning, I thought of my father as I bit into the cherry-filled, powder-sugared treat.
11:00 AM Lunch! I wanted to savor the salty, greasyness of a good french fry with lots of ketchup. At lunch, I jumped in my car and drove thru Burger King. I purchased an original chicken sandwich (a classic for sure) and a large fry. I took my lunch back to work and ate it slowly, savoring each bite. It was one of the best lunches I have eaten in a while.
7:00 PM Tonight! I will have a glass of wine after dinner, just one more decadent pleasure to round out my day.
Because it is a work night, I will not engage in all the revelry that people are embarking upon all over the world. New Orleans, Brazil, Binche– people are wearing masks and frolicking in the streets. They are releasing their energy because tomorrow means business.
Nonetheless, in my own fashion on this eve of Ash Wednesday, I indulge. Feliz Carnaval! Joyeux Mardi Gras!