Skip to content
Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday and the Catholic Church

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Mardi Gras maskMardi Gras is strongly associated with wild bacchanalia and debauchery, but the original intent of the holiday and how it's kept by the faithful is much different. Fat Tuesday, as it is known in English, is a long-standing tradition of the Catholic Church and it marks the last day of ordinary time before the start of Lent, a time of fasting and repentance. While the parties in Europe, South America, and parts of the United States have gained the most attention in popular culture, they seriously misrepresent and outright eclipse the Catholic intent of the holiday.

According to historians, the celebration of Mardi Gras has its roots in the pagan Roman celebration of Lupercalia. This was a February holiday and it honored the Roman god of fertility. It involved feasting, drinking, and carnal behavior.

However, with the rise of the Church in ancient Rome, Christian teaching and morals took root, but there always remained a strong need to blend ancient Roman traditional practices with the growing Christian faith. The blending of tradition with new religious beliefs was a common practice in the ancient world and it helped people to transition away from paganism. In fact, there are a number of ancient Roman traditions that persevere in the Roman Catholic Church to this day, where they continue to guide the faithful.

As Catholic Christianity spread throughout Europe during the first millennium, different cultures celebrated the last day before Lent in their own ways, adapting the practices to suit their cultures. In France, the holiday became particularly popular as people feasted on foods that would be given up during the forty days of Lent. Meats, eggs, and milk were finished off in one day, giving the holiday its French title of 'Mardi Gras' which means Fat Tuesday.

As Europeans crossed the Atlantic to colonize the Americas, they brought their religious practices with them. From the onset, holidays such as Mardi Gras were celebrated in the colonies with as much enthusiasm as they were celebrated in Europe. As the colonies swelled with European immigrants, the celebrations went from the simple to the elaborate. In New Orleans, masked balls and public celebrations quickly became common. In fact, the celebrations became so popular that virtually every citizen of the city joined in even if they were not Catholic.

Crowds at Mardi GrasHowever, in the late 18th century, the Spanish took control of New Orleans and having a more militant and serious perspective on the faith, they imposed significant restrictions on the holiday revelry. Among them, they banned masked balls. However, by 1823, this ban was lifted and parades returned by 1837. At this point, the celebration began to lose its identity as an exclusively Catholic tradition and became more secularized over the centuries.

In Louisiana, Mardi Gras in an official state holiday.

In other parts of the world, the holiday became a season unto itself each branded with unique cultural practices. For example, Venice, Italy is famous for the masked balls that take place on Mardi Gras and the days before. The Venetian tradition dates back to the 13th century and the city remains a popular Mardi Gras destination today.

Still, the original intent of Mardi Gras has always been to indulge, within the context of Catholic morality and reason, the last day before the start of the Lenten season. Here, it is appropriate to mention that while Lent is a season of self-sacrifice and repentance, it is not meant to be a period of self-punishment or extreme hardship.


More Lent & Easter

Easter 2020 / Lent 2020
Begins on February 26, 2020 ends on April 9, 2020

'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead'
Luke 24:46

Lent Event

Importance

Stations of the Cross

Every Friday

Image of Stations of the Cross

Living Lent

February 26 to April 9, 2020

Image of Living Lent

Mardi Gras / Fat Tuesday

February 25, 2020

Image of Mardi Gras / Fat Tuesday

Ash Wednesday

February 26, 2020

Image of Ash Wednesday

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Palm Sunday

April 5, 2020

Image of Palm Sunday

Holy Week

April 5-11, 2020

Image of Holy Week

Holy Thursday

April 9, 2020

Image of Holy Thursday

Good Friday

April 10, 2020

Image of Good Friday

Easter Sunday

April 12, 2020

Image of Easter Sunday

Ascension of Our Lord

May 21, 2020

Image of Ascension of Our Lord

Pentecost

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Image of Pentecost

Fasting and Abstinence

Every Friday

Image of Fasting and Abstinence

Image of What did you give up for Lent?

Image of Lent FAQ's

Image of Transformed by Easter

Image of Easter Bunny

Image of Appearances


Shop Catholic - Buy One Get One 50% OFF

Mix and match any of these bestselling products and enjoy 50% off the second item!

Image of Easter Gifts

Easter / Lent News

Easter Monday Mass (12 PM CT)

Image of Jesus Christ has been raised! Happy Easter Monday!

Find the Easter Monday Mass here and streaming on Catholic Online Facebook. Jesus Christ has been raised! Happy Easter Monday!Easter is ... continue reading


Easter Sunday Mass (11 AM CT) Watch

Image of

The video for Easter Sunday Mass with Bishop Strickland is available here.The video for Easter Sunday Mass with Fr. Hank Lanik is ... continue reading



Act of Contrition PDF

Free Catholic Educational PDF Downloads and Resources

PDF educational resources for Students, Parents, and Teachers and it’s 100% FREE. How to Pray the Rosary, Hail Mary, Our Father, Saints, Prayers, Coloring Books, Novenas, Espanol and more. All FREE to download and faithful to the Magisterium. Download Now >


Happy Easter: The Tomb is Empty! Love Has Triumphed Watch

Image of

We find the purpose of eternity revealed in the temporal realities of every today. The real "stuff" of our mundane daily lives becomes ... continue reading


EASTER VIGIL (Saturday Evening) (8:30 pm CST) Watch

Image of At the Easter Vigil, on Saturday evening, the new flame is lit. The Deacon carries the new Paschal candle into the dark sanctuary proclaiming,

The video for Easter Vigil will be available at 8:30 pm (CT). Dear Friends of Your Catholic Voice, Catholic Online and Students of the ... continue reading


The surprising origins of the Easter Bunny -- it's not what you think! Watch

Image of Rejoice! The beloved Easter Bunny has very Christian origins.

The Easter Bunny is a symbol of Easter that is popular in western culture, especially with children. According to folklore, the Easter ... continue reading


Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.