Today is a day of celebration – Fat Tuesday.
Otherwise known by the French term, Mardis Gras, as well as “Shrove Tuesday,” “Pancake Tuesday,” and “Carnival Tuesday,” Fat Tuesday is the time to throw on beaded necklaces, dance and indulge in sweet treats before the Christian season of Lent starts.
The day, dating back to Roman times, closes out the six-week party season – the pre-Lenten period – ahead of the 40 days of penance that begins on Ash Wednesday (14 February) and ends on Easter Sunday (31 March). Depending on the location, festivities can include consuming all the fats in your kitchen, parading, and eating cake.
Here’s everything you need to know about Fat Tuesday.
What is Fat Tuesday?
Fat Tuesday is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – the marker of the Lent season in the Christian faith. According to CNN, Roman traditions celebrated the harvest season on this day. However, when Christianity was adopted in Rome, Fat Tuesday took on a rowdy form, prioritising partying while honouring the religious undertones. From masquerading to nonstop drinking, the day was an excuse to let loose before a period of fasting, praying, abstinence, and almsgiving began.
The celebration season, which Fat Tuesday finishes, starts on 6 January. On this day, referred to as Three Kings’ Day, the visit from the three kings on the 12th night after the Christ Child was born is remembered. This is when festivities and feasting start.
How do people celebrate Fat Tuesday?
In New Orleans, Louisiana, Mardis Gras celebrations start 10 days before Fat Tuesday. A major party and street parade is thrown on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. These parades feature extravagant costumes, scattered beaded necklaces, live music, alcohol, and “king cake.” Other grand parties and balls are hosted by social organisations called “Krewes.”
“Parade throws,” where people toss beaded necklaces to the patrons partying in the street, allegedly came about from the Rex Krewe, the oldest club in the city. In the 1920s, the club would throw necklaces with their emblem colours – purple for justice, gold for power, and green for faith – and then added coins with their logos printed on them. These coins were known as “doubloons.” After the Rex Krewe started their “parade throws,” many other clubs joined in.
Trinidad, Tobago, and Haiti host cultural shows, music competitions, and large feasts during the carnival season, per a CNN report.
What is a king cake?
The French settlers introduced Mardi Gras to New Orleans, showcasing a symbolic “Galette des Rois,” or “king cake.” The “king cake” tradition comes from the winter solstice celebration of Saturn. During this time, the god of agriculture would bake cakes with beans in them, and the person who found the bean would namely be the “king.”
Mexico City residents will celebrate by baking and finishing a version of the cake called “Rosca de Reyes” or other heart-shaped desserts. In this cake, a figurine is baked inside and the man or woman who finds it is said to be the “king” or “queen” of the festival. This title comes with demands and duties to be done for your family.