Carnaval — Mardi Gras


During lent, and every Friday throughout the year, it used to be forbidden to eat animal meat (land and air) and their products (lard, butter, eggs, milk). So the day before lent it was a race to use up all these items. So you throw all the lard left in town into a big vat and you deep fry anything you can find.

Carnaval, or as they call it in many places Mardi Gras, is a holiday whose date changes every year. It is always 40 days before Easter. Sometimes it falls around Chandeleur, Feb 2, and gets associated with crêpes. Makes sense. Sometimes (often) it falls around Lupercales, Feb 13-15, and gets associated with costume play – which at it’s origin was to fool the evil spirits at Lupercales.

So these days in France, Carnaval is all about costumes and junk food no matter what day it falls.

To get to the bottom of why we splurge, you first have to establish why we fast. The motivation for the holiday is to remember Jesus’s retreat into the dessert.

“The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,

    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Mathew 3.13-4.11)


So the roman pope declared that the best way to prepare for the holy remembrance of Easter was to join Christ in his sufferings by voluntarily giving up temptations. This season of 40 days of fasting would purify our hearts because we would be confronted with our weaknesses everyday and remember just how amazing Jesus is for never giving into temptation. The Easter story revolves around Jesus’ supernatural power to turn off temptations and also his voluntary sacrifice that created a spiritual pathway for us to now access that power to leave our temptations in the past.

Everyone who has ever engaged in a path to acquire mind-transformation will have heard the same wisdom in their support group, whether it was AA, NicA, or a diet plan. If you have to go out and splurge to finish all the temptation in the house before you start this journey, then you don’t have the right mindset for success and meaningful inspiration. I’m sure the tradition started innocently enough, grandma doesn’t want her lard to go to waste so she fries up a big batch of doughnuts for the grandkids. No only are they ecstatic, but they beg her to do it again the next year. Fast forward to today, I suppose it’s fair to say that there are plenty of people who celebrate Carnaval by flinging themselves into an excess of temptation (and I’m not talking about doughnuts anymore). And I’m sure they would acknowledge freely that during those hours they’re not much concerned with the supernatural mindfulness, peace and self-control accessible through Jesus. But if that’s you, I have a message for you. Jesus loves you. He wants you to know that it’s never too late to discover a personal relationship with God. Any time of year.

This author comes from a tradition that believes we can remember the powerful imagery in these stories without becoming legalistic and judgy. As you can see I am a huge fan of bringing history to life and drawing ties to our daily lives. And I do believe that we can delve into the metaphor and embrace the life transformation offered and still enjoy a doughnut. My favorite is Krispy Kreme when they’re fresh, hot, now. Everything in moderation. “Let your moderation be known unto all.” — Philippians 4:5

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