Mardi Gras celebrates Christ the King

Published: February 20, 2017

Traditionally, Mardi Gras, which is French for "Fat Tuesday", involves a big celebration where partygoers overindulge one last time before the solemn season of Lent begins the following day on Ash Wednesday, which is a day of fast and abstinence. This year, Mardi Gras will be celebrated Feb. 28. 

In many cultures, the time between the Christmas season and Lent is known as "carnival." Carnival comes from the Latin words, "carne vale," meaning "farewell to the flesh." Like many Catholic celebrations, Mardi Gras likely has its roots in pre-Christian traditions based on the seasons. Learn more by reading about the Catholic roots of Mardi Gras.

What is less known about Mardi Gras is its relationship to the Christmas season, specifically the feast of the Epiphany. The colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold. Purple stands for myrrh, green is for frankincense and gold is for gold. When the "magi from the East" paid homage to the newborn Jesus, they presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh — gifts for a king. By presenting these gifts, the magi acknowledged the baby was a king.

One of the most prominent customs in the celebration of Mardi Gras is the king cake. Msgr. Owen Campion explained in an Our Sunday Visitor article that "by old, old custom, the cake cannot be a loaf. It must be baked as a round circle, 360 degrees, no breaks, no deviations in shape. It all signifies the eternity and perfection of God. Icing must cover the cake, in the bright colors of purple, green and gold, as if the frosting is a royal mantle. It is. Inside the cake is placed a small figurine or image of a baby, Jesus, the king." Read the complete article to learn more.

Lots of Catholic websites offer recipes and ideas to help you celebrate Mardi Gras with your family. Here are a few to review. Our Sunday Visitor offers "Ideas for celebrating Mardi Gras as a family," which includes masks, costumes and a king cake. Catholic Icing provides a recipe for Shrove Tuesday Pancakes while Catholic Cuisine has one for Mardi Gras Beignets and suggests Paczki Day pastries.