Fat Tuesday is here. Tomorrow all fun vanishes from the face of the earth - more or less. Once upon a time, my wife took this pre-Lent notion to the extreme when she decided to give up her mild obsessions of Tetris and chocolate on the same night. The giddy fun part came when she got to stay up until midnight eating M&Ms and trying to improve her high score as the bricks kept tumbling down...
She finally came to bed completely wired and agitated, unable to sleep. When at last she was able to close her eyes, she could only imagine blocks falling from the sky as she tried in vain to twist and sort them into neat little rows. The next morning she had a decided aversion to video games and sweets - nice trick.
Mardi Gras, as it turns out, is French for "Fat Tuesday." Also known as "Shrove Tuesday," this is the day on the Catholic calendar that comes before Ash Wednesday. The origin of the name Shrove lies in the archaic English verb "to shrive" which means to absolve people of their sins. In some countries the drinking and beads get the heave and are replaced by pancakes. Ireland, Australia, England and Canada have "Pancake Day," pancakes are eaten to use up milk and eggs, which are not eaten during Lent and would otherwise spoil during this period - oh those ever-thrifty Brits.
What does all this have to do with absolution? Riding on a float and drinking gallons of rum drinks mixed in hotel trash cans seems like an interesting way to anticipate one's salvation. Still, it's nice to reflect on the catharsis of the moment: even at our most sinful, we are only a day away from being forgiven. Say what you want about Catholicism, but that seems like a pretty good deal. After all Louisiana has been through this year, I hope everybody down there can take a few hours away from hauling rubble and foraging for food and have a Hurricane on me. Pro Bono Publico!