Fat Tuesday Facts

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Tuesday is the big day, people. We can eat, drink, and be merry, because looming ahead is the Forty Days Of Lent! I have everything in place for our own big Mardi Gras blowout. At the store today, I bought two (yes, I said TWO!) bags of flavored popcorn and a bag of peanut M&M’s! After a normal, at-home supper, we will work on our winter jigsaw puzzle, watch the winter Olympics on Network television, and snack on the acquired goodies. WOO-HOO, this is gonna be some crazy party here tomorrow night!

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The historical intent of Mardi Gras is religiously/liturgical calendar based. Mardi Gras is French for “fat Tuesday,” and this was the day that the French Christians would finish up all of their butter and rich cuts of meat, so as to be better disposed to hearing the word of God during Lent. (Making little sacrifices does, indeed, lend oneself to being a better listener, for that I can testify!) This Wed, we will enter into the penitential season of Lent, when we give up certain earthly pleasures to allow our hearts to be more open to the joy of knowing and loving God. Some people choose to give up meat, or chocolates, or all sweets, or snack foods. Others might choose to refrain from complaining or criticizing, which is a different form of “fasting” that could be very beneficial for themselves and those whom they love. This is, at least, the history of Mardi Gras. It was a day, sometimes several days (or weeks, even), when Christians would celebrate and eat heartily prior to Ash Wed. Sometimes there were masked balls and public celebrations, particularly in France. In the UK and Ireland, the day before Lent is referred to as Shrove Tuesday instead, which points more strongly to the true nature of the observance and the coming Lenten season. Shrovetide (which is actually the whole week leading up to Lent), comes from the word “shrive, which means to confess, or to be pardoned. In other words, folks in England & Ireland are promoting a visit to the confessional during that week prior to Ash Wednesday, to prepare oneself appropriately for the coming liturgical season. And, then, for some unknown reason, they all go home and eat pancakes. Don’t ask me why.

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With our country’s fair state of Louisiana being historically settled by a strong French influx and influence, it was natural that the more extensive Mardi Gras observances would flourish there. Everyone has heard of the contemporary Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and thousands travel there to join in the excitement. Over the years, however, they have thrown out the Christian concept of the season, and have adopted the observances of the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia. This was a feast (around the same time of year) to honor the pagan god of fertility. In addition to feasting, there was lots of booze and “carnal behavior.” Sounds pretty much exactly like what goes on in New Orleans these days. You could not pay me to go there! In my house, we will stick to the liturgical sense of the season, which doesn’t lead to possible weight gain, hellacious hangovers, and serious deathbed regrets.

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So, if you haven’t already, get to the store, get to confession, and get ready for Ash Wednesday. It will be here soon, and by then, all of the pancakes will be long gone. You don’t want to miss out on those pancakes, and you don’t want to miss out on a holy Lent, either. Lent is one of the best “gifts” of the liturgical year, so don let it slip by unnoticed. So, when the Mardi Gras celebrations are but a memory, head to church this Wednesday for (what I call) “Must Ash” day (Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches can be counted on for observing this practice). You’ll feel the gritty ash against your skin as the shape of a cross is imprinted upon your forehead. Wear it proudly throughout the day….you’ll be glad you did!

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Hold, On – Time is Flying By!

I can’t believe it’s 2018 already. Heck, I’m still trying to process the fact that we’re in the third millennium! Remember way back in 1999, when folks were all worried about the Y2k computer problem? Special committees were set up … Continue reading

A Seasonal Song for You

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This time of year, some of us are walking on eggshells, wondering if we are “allowed” to wish people a “Merry Christmas.” Is it more proper to say “Season’s Greetings,” or “Happy Holidays,” or perhaps, “Bah, humbug!”? I got news for ya’ folks. If it weren’t for Christmas, there would be no seasonal greetings needed, and also no holidays to be happy about. The “season” was built a long, long time ago, around Christmas! Yeah, there’s New Year’s Day, but…who cares about that?! This lowly holiday gets top billing only because it happens to come a week after Christmas, which is the holiday, and the reason for the “season!!” And folks have been using those different seasonal greetings for years, and they all refer mainly to Christmas, followed by that humble holiday who just happened to be lucky enough to tag along with the Star! (the Star……get it?!) When folks use those salutations of Season’s Greetings and/or Happy Holidays, they are, in fact, wishing you a Merry Christmas anyway…they just don’t realize it.

Here’s what it boils down to – you can offer to me whatever you like, by way of seasonal greeting, and I will sincerely thank you, and then wish you a Merry Christmas, BUT, I will only say that when Christmas is really here. Because here’s the next big surprise that will cause a wedgie in your “holiday” PJ’s…Christmas starts at midnight on Christmas Eve! It didn’t start shortly after Halloween, when the stores immediately clearanced the left-over Trick-or-Treat candy and set out the Christmas sweets, decorations, gift bags, Santa hats, Christmas socks, etc, etc. And, it didn’t start on Black Friday, when people got up hours before the sunrise and started the mad rush to buy gifts for everyone on their list. Nope! Christmas starts on the anniversary (or at least the date that has been traditionally celebrated, for nearly 2000 years, as the anniversary) of the birth of our Lord and Savior.

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So, while you’re all biting your tongue wondering what greeting to offer, I ask you to consider this new approach. Greet people within the confines of the correct season. I’ve decided that’s what I’m going to be doing. When someone tosses any of the above mentioned good wishes my way (or offers a greeting for any other holiday of their choosing), I am going to respond with this gem, “And a blessed Advent to you!” I don’t know why I didn’t think of this years ago, but, this little idea finally found a way to get my attention, and I am groovin’ on this ingenious concept! I no longer have to worry about whether or not to say Merry Christmas, because…., IT’S ADVENT!!

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I have spent the past few days standing in front of the mirror, practicing this response, and I think I have it down pat now. “A blessed Advent to you!” I even made up a little song, just for fun, and in the spirit of the season, I’m sharing it with you.

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I Wish You a Blessed Advent

(sung to the tune of, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”)

(refrain)

I wish you a bless-ed Advent,

I wish you a bless-ed Advent,

I wish you a bless-ed Advent,

Cuz it’s not Christmas yet.

 

Slow down and take time

To truly employ,

The gift of a holy Advent

And the coming of Joy!

(repeat refrain)

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That was my early Christmas gift to you and, yes, I am still allowed to say the word Christmas – I’m not being a tyrannical scrooge, here! If you go Christmas caroling, go ahead and sing the word Christmas at the top of your lungs, but just keep in mind, we’re still waiting for Christmas to arrive. Once it does, I’ll be wishing people a Merry Christmas for at least a couple of weeks, maybe even until Epiphany, and folks will look at me like I’ve lost my marbles, not even realizing that they are being liturgically incorrect by packing the Christmas albums away the day after Christmas! At any rate, right now, in December, we should all be preparing our hearts to genuinely rejoice and celebrate the birthday of Jesus at the proper time. And that, my friends, is what this season of Advent is all about – not shopping, not parties, not gift exchanges, not decking the halls….just waiting, and watching, in the still of the night, as though we were lowly shepherds in the field, always on the alert for the sound of angel voices. They always come when you least expect them, but only if you find a quiet place, and take the time to listen. So….embrace your own holy and blessed Advent, while there’s still time.

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Mimi On-the-Mend, From Her Minnesota Meanderings

Where did the month of November go?! I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in a few weeks – consider this blog my excusal letter! I flew out of Cincinnati on November 1st, for a two-week stay with my daughter in … Continue reading