Summary: In this lesson on Mardi Gras, students will learn what it means to "eat, drink, and be merry"
Tonight you will be celebrating your very own version of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is the French phrase for "Fat Tuesday" and also known as Carnival and Shrove Tuesday, the last day before the beginning of Lent, a period of fasting and repentance leading up to Easter. Traditionally, it is the day for eating up the last of the rich foods that remain in the house and for having a big party before a long period of discipline and repentence. Today, far less people observe Lent, but more people than ever celebrate Mardi Gras. What do you think of when someone says Mardi Gras?
I usually think of beads, parties, and New Orleans, but there is a much richer history associated with the celebration, and I want to teach you a little about that tonight. In our church, we celebrate Lent as a season of fasting or giving up something, in order that we might focus on God for that period from Ash Wednesday until Easter, about 46 days. You may remember that Jesus himself did some fasting. Matthew 4:1-3, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘if you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘it is written: ‘man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that come from the mouth of God.’”
So, the period of fasting is about drawing yourself closer to God, and it requires some discipline. I remember a couple of years ago I gave up Soda for lent. I grew up with a Pentecostal background, and then started attending a Baptist church, and then I started on staff here at CCC about 4 years ago, so this was actually my first time doing Lent. If you’ve ever given up something for that period of time, then you know that it’s not easy. I drink about 2 sodas a day, so that was extremely hard for me, but I was able to get through it. I can tell you at times, I was tempted to drink a soda, but because Jenni, my wife, did that with me, it was a little easier.
Mardi Gras can also be called Carnival. Since it’s the day before the beginning of Lent, I suppose that many people see it as the last day they get to consume something they are fasting from. Carnival is taken from the Latin meaning “to take away meat.” Carnival is supposed to be a celebration. There’s a phrase that goes along with Mardi Gras, that says, “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, for tomorrow we die.” It basically means that today is the day to live, because tomorrow is gonna stink. People today can take that phrase to mean that we’d better party while we can, and that’s why when you think of Mardi Gras, you think of those parties and wild living, but there’s more to it than that.
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 says, “Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.”