Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Fat Tuesday..or Saturday

Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday" in English, refer to events of the Carnival celebrations, beginning on or after Epiphany and ending on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday" (in ethnic English tradition, Shrove Tuesday), referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Related popular practices are associated with celebrations before the fasting and religious obligations associated with the penitential season of Lent. Popular practices include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, etc. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition. In English, the day is called Shrove Tuesday, associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.

In many areas, the term "Mardi Gras" has come to mean the whole period of activity related to the celebratory events, beyond just the single day. In some US cities, it is now called "Mardi Gras Day" or "Fat Tuesday".The festival season varies from city to city, as some traditions consider Mardi Gras the entire period between Epiphany or Twelfth Night and Ash Wednesday.Others treat the final three-day period before Ash Wednesday as the Mardi Gras. In Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras-associated social events begin in November, followed by mystic society balls on Thanksgiving, then New Year's Eve, followed by parades and balls in January and February, celebrating up to midnight before Ash Wednesday. In earlier times parades were held on New Year's Day. Other cities famous for Mardi Gras celebrations include Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Barranquilla, Colombia, Sydney, Australia, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Quebec City, Canada; Mazatl├ín, Sinaloa in Mexico; and, of course, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States.

More on Mardi Gras here

Although Fat Tuesday is the culmination of the celebration before the Lenten fast leading up to Easter in most Christian churches, there is an interesting exception in one part of Italy. In the great city of Milan, in accordance with what is called the Ambrosian Rite, Lent starts four days later than in the Roman Rite, so that there is no Ash Wednesday, and Carnival continues until "sabato grasso" ("Fat Saturday" in Italian), corresponding to Shrove Tuesday (called "mardi gras", i.e. "Fat Tuesday", in French) in areas where the Roman Rite is used. In addition, on Fridays in Lent, Mass is not celebrated and, with a few exceptions, Communion is not distributed.
The rite is named after Saint Ambrose, a bishop of Milan in the fourth century. The Ambrosian Rite, which differs from the Roman Rite, is practiced among some five million Catholics in the greater part of the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy (excluding, notably, the areas of Monza, of Treviglio, of Trezzo sull'Adda and a few other parishes), in some parishes of the Diocese of Como, Bergamo, Novara, Lodi and in about fifty parishes of the Diocese of Lugano, in the Canton Ticino, Switzerland.


Although at various points in its history the distinctive Ambrosian Rite has risked suppression, it survived, and was reformed, after the Second Vatican Council partly because then-Pope Paul VI was sympathetic, having previously been Archbishop of Milan. In the 20th century it also gained prominence and prestige from the attentions of two other scholarly Archbishops of Milan: Achille Ratti, later Pope Pius XI, and the Blessed Ildefonso Schuster, both of whom had been involved in studies and publications on the rite before their appointment.

There are a number of other interesting differences between the Roman and Ambrosian rites that are reflected in the liturgical year and the celebration of the Catholic mass that make the already distinctive character of the Milanese even more so.

More on the Ambrosian Rite here and here

In a more traditional vein, however, it would still seem that nobody quite does carnival as they do in Brazil, as these photos from the NY Post suggest here

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