Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ashes To Ashes, Now Pass the Hush Puppies

As I write this, in the honest-to-God home of the original Mardi Gras (1703, thank you. That's fifteen years before New Orleans even existed), I am right smack dab in the middle of Fat Tuesday. Well, I'm as smack dab in the middle as one can be when they're stuck at work on a day when everyone else in the entire city is off, Downtown, and tossing back hurricanes while they catch beads and moonpies (I'm not bitter). Even the local news channel canceled all programming to bring live coverage of the parades, interspersed with shots of folks grilling ribs, frying funnel cakes, and just generally having a fabulous time (I'm not bitter).
My brother is out of school. (Yeah, okay, I'm bitter as heck!)
Truly, Fat Tuesday is the epitome of frivolity and debauchery, but many tend to forget that there's more to the day than imbibing and flashing (which is illegal here, I might add). Fat Tuesday is the day before (what, by the time this posts, will be) today: Ash Wednesday.
For you non-Catholics out there, Ash Wednesday is not just the day that people walk around with dirty foreheads. I mean, yes, we do that, too, but that's not the main thing. It's also not just the time of year when my choir director likes to torture me by dropping all keys a half-step each week, though I think it's one of the highlights of his year. Finally, no, Thomas, it's not the day when we all celebrate Bruce Campbell's achievements against demonic possession. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season; that time before Easter when we reflect on our sins and on just what our redemption cost. The ashes are created by burning the palm fronds from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebration, and symbolize repentence and mortality. Lent is a dark time of sorrow and remorse, and a far cry from the jubilant Mardi Gras season.
It is also, as one of my parents' Sunday School kids once put it, "when we eat grilled cheese sandwiches on Friday".
Lent is when we give up something we enjoy, or strive to better a portion of our lives that has been lacking. True, Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays (though it does give us a chance to throw some awesome fish fries), but the real point is the restraint and self-denial, to symbolize the 40 days of prayer and fasting Jesus went through before he began his public ministry (It also gives us something to talk about at the fish fries). 
I have no idea what I'm giving up. Not a clue, so I Googled up a little advice.
Twitter users are giving up Twitter, baked goods, sweets, smoking, television (no!), Mountain Dew, alcohol (some limiting that to non-weekend beers), Facebook (egad! I'd die!), McDonald's, random snacks, and my favorite, gloating over football.
I'm still undecided. As of right now, I'm thinking I might give up going over 1200 calories a day. It's something I really need to work on, and a fairly reasonable goal. Remember, though, whatever you sacrifice is YOUR sacrifice. It's not your family/friend/co-worker's fault that you gave up caffeine or smoking. Don't take it out on them. One more thing: even if you're not Catholic, Christian, or religious at all, Lent can be a wonderful time for self-reflection; a time to think about what you can do to be a better you. That's something we all should do from time to time, anyway. Good luck, guys!

1 comment:

  1. oh, lent. or as it's known at my house, the annual test of secular willpower. this little heathen is going the next 40 days without red meat. i have no idea how i'm going to get through it. thank GOD wendy's has a fish sandwich now...


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