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Welcoming the Season of Lent and Celebrating Mardi Gras

The Season of Lent begins tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, February 26th.

Begin your Lenten journey with us at the Cathedral. Mass with the distribution of ashes will be offered at 6:30 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 12:10 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.The Mass at 12:10 p.m. will be celebrated by the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton.

Confessions will be heard from 7:30 to 7:50 a.m.


The Roots of Mardi Gras

For many Catholics, Mardi Gras is a day of excess food and drink before our Lenten sacrifice begins. As with many "holidays", the original meaning behind this day has been distorted over the years. Mardi Gras literally means "Fat Tuesday" in French. The name comes from the tradition of slaughtering and feasting upon a fattened calf on the last day of Carnival. The day is also known as Shrove Tuesday (from "to shrive," or hear confessions).

Its roots lie in the Christian calendar, as the "last hurrah" before the season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras also has a relation to the Christmas season, through the ordinary-time interlude known in many Catholic cultures as Carnival. Ordinary Time, in the Christian calendar, refers to the normal "ordering" of time outside of the holy seasons.

Carnival comes from the Latin words carne vale, meaning "farewell to the flesh." Like many Catholic holidays and seasonal celebrations, it likely has its roots in pre-Christian traditions based on the seasons. Some believe the festival represented the few days added to the lunar calendar to make it coincide with the solar calendar; since these days were outside the calendar, rules and customs were not obeyed. Others see it as a late-winter celebration designed to welcome the coming spring. As early as the middle of the second century, the Romans observed a Fast of 40 Days, which was preceded by a brief season of feasting, costumes, and merrymaking.

The Carnival season kicks off with Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night or Three Kings' Day. Epiphany, which falls on January 6, 12 days after Christmas, celebrates the visit of the Wise Men bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. Epiphany is also traditionally when celebrants serve King's Cake, a custom that began in France in the 12th century. Legend has it that the cakes were made in a circle to represent the circular routes that the Wise Men took to find Jesus, in order to confuse King Herod and foil his plans of killing the Christ Child.

The official colors of Mardi Gras, with their roots in Catholicism, were chosen 10 years later: purple, a symbol of justice; green, representing faith; and gold, to signify power.

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