Throughout much of the Christian world, today is known as "Fat Tuesday," "Shrove Tuesday (or Shrovetide
)," "Carneval," or, as we most popularly know it in the French, today is Mardi Gras.
Today marks the final day before Ash Wednesday, the traditional beginning of Lent, a season of the year devoted to the principles of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and abstinence. Christians are called to this kind of life every day, of course, so in the days of yore, not nearly as much emphasis was placed on prayer and almsgiving (you were supposed to be doing that anyway, just remember it especially during Lent), as there was given to fasting and abstinence. As a result, the Tuesday before Lent became the day that the Christian might indulge in that huge beef roast, hasty pudding, chocolate pie, and sugar rolls for one last time before seriously devoting themselves to fasting and abstinence until Easter. Somehow, the custom got started of inviting a few friends over for the blowout. Eventually, the whole neighborhood got in on the act, but it was good clean fun.
Today's Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans is not in the spirit of pre-Lenten Christian enjoyment. Rather than promote Christ, today's celebration in that city gives New Orleans, Cajun culture, the Holy Catholic Church, and the season of Lent a bad name. I daresay that a whole lot of the people engaging in that event are not practicing Catholics or Christians of any kind, and are merely using Mardi Gras as an excuse to drunken themselves and engage in debauchery and whoredom. They will not join their Catholic brothers and sisters in Church tomorrow to begin with them a season of penance and justice, instead many will find some other excuse to engage in even more wickedness.
Obviously, the Church does not endorse Mardi Gras celebrations that do not reflect the true spirit of the day, and New Orleans today is no exception to that. The Church does, however, want folks to have some good clean fun today if they feel like it. Whether that is just having a very fattening meal tonight, or having a family or parish celebration, as many people will. Rather than not celebrating Shrove Tuesday, Christians everywhere need to have wholesome celebrations to reclaim the day from the heathens who have corrupted a perfectly good holiday.