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"Defining Mardi Gras", by Rachel Dickson
February 16, 2006: The Jackson-Today

The Dickson Gallery of Fine Art, Art Gallery Tennessee , Jackson Today Weekly Column by Rachel Dickson 


        Defining Mardi Gras



     Once again my curiosity got the better of me…so where did I turn? The Internet.  In lue of the upcoming celebration(s) in downtown Jackson and of course New Orleans (celebrating their 150th anniversary of Mardi Gras this year) I wanted to learn the history behind Mardi Gras.
     Originally this celebration was deemed simply “Carnival”.  It originated in the middle ages in Rome when the Fast of the 40 days of Lent was preceded by a feast of several days during which time participants delivered themselves up to voluntary madness, put on masks, clothed themselves as spectres (ghosts), gave themselves up to Bacchus (god of wine) and Venus (goddess of love) and considered all pleasure allowable.
     Lent is the forty-day period before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday. Skip Sundays when you count the forty days, because Sundays commemorate the Resurrection. This year Lent begins on 1 March 2006 and ends on 15 April 2006, which is the day before Easter.  In the Roman Catholic Church, Lent officially ends at sundown on 13 April (Holy Thursday), with the beginning of the mass of the Lord’s Supper.  Since Easter is based on Lunar cycles and the Gregorian calendar it falls on a different date every year, hence the date of Mardi Gras varies.
    Mardi Gras (which in France means “Grease” or "Fat Tuesday") is the day before Ash Wednesday, and is also called "Shrove Tuesday" or “Pancake Day”, the final day of Carnival. It’s also a day of celebration as well as penitence, because it's the last day before Lent.
     Lent is a time of abstinence, of giving things up. So “Shrove Tuesday” is the last chance to indulge yourself and to use up the



foods that aren't allowed in Lent. Pancakes are eaten on this day because they contain fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during Lent.
    Interestingly enough…I discovered that the last three or four days before the beginning of Lent is known as “Shrovetide”. The old names for these days were:  “Egg Saturday”, “Quinquagesima Sunday” (simply meaning the Sunday before Lent), “Collop Monday” (the day on which all meat left in the larder would be used up) and “Shrove Tuesday” (the day on which all fats, cream and eggs had to be used up).
     So now that we’re all a bit more “in the know” regarding the basis of Mardi Gras be sure to join us downtown for “Mardi Gras Fabulous Friday” coming up February 24th from 7p-9p when various downtown businesses will be hosting parties of their own followed by the annual Mardi Gras party at the Downtown Tavern starting at 9pm.  Be sure to don your favorite costume because yes, we’ll be voting on the King and Queen of downtown starting around 9:30pm.  On “Collop Monday” (February 27th) WNWS 101.5 and Friends to Friends will be hosting a Mardi Gras Ball at the Civic Center where another King and Queen will be named, and of course on Fat Tuesday (February 28th) the annual downtown parade starts at 12 noon.
     For more information call Jackson Downtown Development at 427-7573.

     Dickson is the owner of The Dickson Gallery of Fine Art at 118 E Lafayette Street. She may be contacted by email at
rachel@dicksongallery.com or by phone at 423-9708.




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