What Is Mardi Gras? What Is Fat Tuesday?

Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday Definition and Information

two eggs on a table

Mardi Gras is one of the many names for the Tuesday that falls right before Ash Wednesday. On this Tuesday, the Christian world prepares for the Lenten season. "Mardi Gras" is French for "Fat Tuesday."

Since Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a period of fasting and penitence, it was customary to party and celebrate the night before Lent began. Thus Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday," was a way of getting one last party in before Lent began.

In some locations, particularly in South America and New Orleans in the United States, Mardi Gras celebrations are huge affairs and chances to party, whether someone is Christian or not. Some of these events are called "carnival" which may mean "to remove meat," a reference to the fact that one could not eat meat during Lent. In these countries, the religious meaning of the holiday is often not a big concern, and the events are viewed as opportunities to have a giant party.

Historically, Mardi Gras celebrations offered a chance to use up all of the meats, oils, eggs, and dairy products that were forbidden during Lent. The Church also emphasizes the penitential aspects of the Tuesday before Lent, and the day is often called Shrove Tuesday. An archaic title used for this Tuesday is "Hall Night," from the word "hallowed," meaning "holy."

There were names for the Monday before Ash Wednesday as well, although they are rarely used now. They are "Callop Monday" (named after a food eaten that day), "Hall Monday," and "Blue Monday" (probably derived from the "blue" emotion associated with the approaching penance of Lent). Another outdated name for that Monday was "Merry Monday," because for some, that day was a time to party before Lent began.



Updated 02-24-2020