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Lara Patangan ponders the contrast between Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday, as remorse replaces revelry.

I used to live in New Orleans where the celebration of Mardi Gras is as huge as one of those oversized floats wobbling down St. Charles Avenue skimming the canopy of oak trees as krewes throw plastic beads at enthusiastic revelers. Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday, is when Christians are encouraged to reflect on repentance before the solemn season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. 

I never had the impression that the people smushed together on Bourbon Street reflected anything other than how alcohol really, really lowers inhibitions. Still, I love a parade and feeling like Mr. T from the 1980s television series The A-Team with 40 pounds of shine dangling from my neck.

Shrove Tuesday is like New Year’s Eve in the secular world. You celebrate, indulge, imbibe. The next day you wake up pop some aspirin, chug water, and begin your resolutions. Lent isn't as much about resolutions as it is a time to make restitution for the ways we have failed God. Maybe that sounds like a buzz kill compared to the revelry of Mardi Gras or even the zeal of New Year’s resolutions, but I love the sobriety of Ash Wednesday. 


finger drawing a cross in ashes


I love going to Mass and seeing the community of believers line up to face mortality with the meekness of remorse and hope that is mercy.  It’s not just lining up for ashes, it’s realigning ourselves with God. It’s committing to taking off the weight of sin, to stripping away anything that separates us from our Savior and preparing ourselves for the joy that resurrection brings.

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Lent isn't as much about resolutions as it is a time to make restitution for the ways we have failed God. #catholicmom

However you do Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, or just another Tuesday, it’s a happy day for me. I won’t binge or bedeck myself in beads. I don’t have any parades to go to and I mostly prefer peanut butter to partying. Still, I love the joy of a day where I am reminded of the swirl of revelry and the sweetness of life. 

More than anything, I love the quiet reflection of the day that follows. The way it seems somber but reminds me that death and dust, and losing the plastic shine of life, gives me a chance at eternal life. The glory that reveals itself in the resurrection only comes through death. In that way, I welcome it—death to sin, attachments, and distractions. 

For forty days leading up to Easter, I won’t be lamenting what I am losing, what I am giving up, or what I can’t do. I will be looking forward to what I may gain—the rejoicing that will come from redemption. That’s certainly something to celebrate and it won't even cause a hangover. 


Mardi Gras beads and coins

Copyright 2022 Lara Patangan
Images: Canva Pro