Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras:
a Triumph
of Indulgence
Over Abstinence

On Mardi Gras, wild revelers
chug wine with Dionysus.
Then, for the next dull forty days,
they bore themselves for Jesus.
-Warlock M. M.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is an unofficial Catholic bacchanal, celebrated just before the forty-day observance of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent is, of course, a period of self-denial leading up to Easter Sunday. Many Catholics choose a particular vice, such as candy or alcohol, from which to abstain until the Easter Bunny returns with those delicious chocolate eggs.

But before the abstinence begins, most Catholics catch up on their sins...

The rampant revelry of Mardi Gras is more than just another good excuse to throw a party. It’s among the most honest traditions to evolve in all of Christendom. Celebrants are naturally very reluctant to give up their carnal pleasures for over a month! That’s because it’s unnatural to avoid the life-enhancing indulgences that they embrace, often to excess, during this yearly carnival.

Mardi Gras is a triumph of indulgence over abstinence. It’s a celebration of fleshly delights in defiance of their ritual denial. And in a liturgical calendar that cycles through converted pagan holidays, Fat Tuesday is unique in its development from the opposite direction. Instead of disguising “the gods” as “God,” Mardi Gras brings back some of the fun of pre-Christian revelry. Indeed, despite its creation after the Jesus cult got out of hand, Mardi Gras is, in more than one sense, “pre-Christian.”

Today’s festivities will be particularly rewarding for those who take advantage of the atmosphere without succumbing to compulsive excesses. After all, why drink yourself sick and stupid today, when tomorrow you will have just as many indulgences from which to freely choose?

That said, on a personal level, I am somewhat grateful to Christianity for—I might as well admit it—yet another excuse to throw a party.

Enjoy an indulgent Mardi Gras!

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