Anyone who has taken a look at the liturgical calendar this year got a good laugh when they noticed that Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day and Easter lands on April Fool’s. Maybe the powers that be are just trying to drive home to us laymen that the ways of God are far above the ways of men?
For those die hard Valentine’s Day fans, you actually might have cried when you saw the overlap. On a day when indulging in a juicy steak and chocolate covered strawberries is almost obligatory, you are only allowed one full meal for the whole day that is the opposite of indulgent and it must be meatless. Ugh.
If you’re like me and don’t care much about Valentine’s Day because of how commercial it is (I’m looking at you, Hallmark!), you saw a liturgical opportunity. Sure, planning time for romance, especially with your spouse, is incredibly important, but who says it MUST fall on February 14? Lucky for you, the Catholic church provides an age-old backup option.
For those poor unfortunate souls not nearly as lucky as I was to grow up in South Louisiana, allow me to share with you the fabulous holiday of Mardi Gras. It’s such a big deal in Cajun land that I didn’t realize that the rest of the country was almost entirely unaware of its existence until I moved out of the state and discovered that it was not a national holiday. That was a sad day. Literally meaning “fat Tuesday”, Mardi Gras always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, and is a last hurrah before the belt-cynching and wallet-lightening.
Before it became a tawdry excuse for flashing some inebriated co-ed in exchange for cheap beer-soaked beads, Mardi Gras was a holiday deeply rooted in Catholic tradition and symbolism. Granted, it was originally conceived as a replacement for the Roman fertility festival, and sure, many dates for our modern Christian holidays were timed to replace other pagan holy days.
Mardi Gras though isn’t just a day, but a season, lasting from January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, all the way to the day before Lent. In fact, the King Cake, that iconic Mardi Gras treat, is named for the three kings who paid homage to Christ after his birth, and these glorified iced cinnamon rolls are enjoyed throughout the season. (Sorry you’re not finding out about this sooner to take advantage. Meanwhile, I’m over here pining for parades, jambalaya and crawfish boils, but I digress.) Then there are the colors of Mardi Gras – purple, green and gold. The purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power or kingship. Makes sense, right, since we profess our faith in a just and powerful King.
Total side story here, but it has to do with marriage so I guess it works with the romance theme. Nick and I come from hardcore football allegiances, his family for the Green Bay Packers, mine for the LSU Tigers. We each decided for the sake of familial peace that we would support each others’ teams and have stuck to it post-vows. Thankfully, there wasn’t too much in conflict, with one being professional and the other collegiate. But I knew it must be God-ordained when about a year later I realized that combining our teams’ colors – green and gold for Packers, purple and gold for LSU – we got Mardi Gras.
Marital compromise FTW!
So while it may be heartbreaking that for us Catholics our nationally designated day of romance has been ecclesiastically confiscated by prayer and fasting while donning ashes no less, there’s no need to fret! You can still fully embrace both your Catholic faith and romance this year with gusto. Just break out all the stops – the steak, the strawberries AND the champagne – one day early. Happy Mardi Gras and Laissez les bon temps roller!