Question: "What is the origin of Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras?"
Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday,” is the last day of a season called “Carnival.” The Carnival season is characterized by merrymaking, feasting, and dancing. Mardi Gras is the culmination of festivities and features parades, masquerades, and, unfortunately, often drunkenness and shameless debauchery. Carnival is typically celebrated in Catholic countries of southern Europe and Latin America.
The excess of Carnival may not seem to have much in common with the austerity of Lent, but the two seasons are inseparable. The day after Fat Tuesday is Ash Wednesday; therefore, the end of Carnival is followed immediately by the beginning of Lent. Lent is a time of fasting and penance in preparation for Easter. Carnival, then, can rightly be seen as the indulgence before the fast. It is one last “binge” before having to give something up for 40 days.
What does the Bible say about all this? There is nothing in the Bible that in any way suggests that early Christians observed either Lent or Carnival. And, of course, there is no biblical support for the kind of fleshly indulgence generally practiced on Fat Tuesday. The Bible expressly forbids drunkenness, carousing, and sexual fornication. Romans 13:13-14 says, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
In general, Mardi Gras revelers engage in a binge of sinning before a time of consecration to God. The celebration of Mardi Gras fosters the notion that you can do whatever you want on Fat Tuesday, as long as you show up in church on Ash Wednesday. It’s the bender before the benediction, and it’s utterly unscriptural.
Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras Calendar:
2014 – March 4
2015 – February 17
2016 – February 9
2017 – February 28
2018 – February 15
2019 – March 5
2020 – February 25