Postponing Celebration: When Mardi Gras is Cancelled

In the culture I grew up in if it was tradition, you had to do it, you had to throw the party, facilitate the event…but this year, I have to break that tradition. I know that today is Mardi Gras, but in my heart, Ash Wednesday has come a day early and my heart is achy. So, I have postponed Mardi Gras this year much like all that has been postponed with the pandemic. So often our culture has it backward, we try to distract ourselves from our pain, or at least I do. Yet grief must be greeted and felt like our other emotions. So whatever celebration you are postponing or altering, may you have the strength to post-pone well. To the level in which we engage grief is the level, we can engage in celebration.

To the level we grieve is the to level we will celebrate.

As much as my history and tradition tell me to celebrate today, possibly what it was actually teaching me is that on the days we are grieving, may we grieve authentically and on the days we are celebrating, may we live honorably in hope and laughter. However you find yourself, rest in God’s love that longs for your heart to be known, whether in a season of grief or a season of celebration.

Happy Mardi Gras everyone, I share this post as a tribute to Mardi Gras of old and with curiosity to learn how to build resilience and hold the tension of both life and death. While my celebrations will be postponed, for those whose hearts are celebrating today, let the good times roll….

Mardi Gras Mambo

I look up immediately when I hear the sirens coming up Main Street, it is finally time for the Mardi Gras parade to begin. I got up early that morning with my sister and brother, we put our lawn chairs in front of my dad’s bank before heading to school. During class, I would daydream about the afternoon scene, candy, shiny colorful coins dancing through the air from the parade floats. When the last bell rang, I didn’t even go home to change out of my uniform. I headed straight to my wooden slatted folding chair and sat down and waited for this very moment. As common as parades are in South Louisiana, I know someone walking in this parade and my 2nd grade hopes will be ready for this family connection to pay off. My grandfather will be in the group of men dressed up in traditional Cajun culture Mardi Gras clown-like garb. The tassels from his high cone shaped hat and the huge gold beads around his neck almost make him almost unrecognizable in a group of 35 men in similar outfits. I strain my eyes hard to make sure it is him before I yell, “Papere! Papere! I am here!”. He doesn’t see me at first but he is looking and as he gets closer, I continue to scream, but this time in French, “Laissez les bon temps roulez, Papere!” It is our secret code to speak in French when we are in public. He is reaching into his pockets, his fingers emerge slowly and painfully stretching over the handful of beads and doubloons, and I know he sees me. He steps outside of the parade form and leans down filling my bag with these treasures. Then he does what I will wait for almost full parades to acquire, he takes off a brilliant and massively prized Mardi Gras bead from his neck, and places it around mine. The elaborate and shining purple, green, and gold beads that make up this necklace are exquisite to my 8-year-old eyes. I can hear him yell over the crowd before he turns back into the parade line, “Happy Mardi Gras, che’, laissez les bon temps roulez!” I look down at the small mountain of booties in my hands, I don’t even try for the beads and candy flying in the air from the floats. I have gotten all that I could have hoped for. 

Growing up in a Catholic, Cajun culture, I was always taught, when you fear what’s ahead, you celebrate harder. In this poor, rural town my childhood was filled with parades and celebrations. We celebrate everything: feast days, holidays, going to the grocery store, a good grade, a great alligator, or squirrel hunt. We also go to Mass for all of these things too. So, in my upbringing, God is invited to every event and you go and thank God for every event. It did not seem foreign to me that massive celebrations were expected to be had the day before and the day after Lent began and ended. Mardi Gras is an act of debauchery for many but for me, it translated more like stocking up for a shut-in. Such as taking in a deep breath before diving under the water and swimming as far as you could with that one breath. This was Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, the day one should breathe in deep all the goodness so that it could be savored and rationed to make it through the days of Lent and giving up.  

Mardi Gras. Shrove Day. Fat Tuesday. 

Laissez les bon temps roulez. Let the good times roll. 

This is a common phrase thrown around celebrations in Southern Louisiana. Mardi Gras, which is French for Fat Tuesday, is a tradition dating back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of fertility and spring, including the rambunctious Roman festivals. When Christianity merged with Roman culture, religious leaders combined this local tradition with faith. As a prelude to Ash Wednesday, which marked Lent’s 40 days of fasting and penance, Fat Tuesday became a carnival day of excess and debauchery. 

The mixing of pagan and religious calendar events was more common than choosing to abolish one of the traditional events. As a researcher in well-being and marking, it is very important to take note of this historical reckoning, the merging of the earth and the spirit. Mardi Gras became one of these events for me, but with most traditions, we must add intention and individuality to our marking events. How do you merge your every day with the earthly and spiritual seasons? This is an invitation to bring intention to your season of tilting toward the sun, moving from wintering into the vernal equinox. In the life/death/life cycle we continue to ask our bodies, spirits, and minds to engage in the ever-rotating seasons. The vernal season takes a long time to break through the ground, the death cycle is hard to shake off. For something to live, something must die. We have marked the death of the winter and it is time to break off the harrowed ground so that we can plant seeds. Giving us something for Lent is like planting seeds inside of yourself. It is the intentional seeds we plan hoping to see something blossom from it in the Spring. 

May you mark this season of Lent well, and may it begin with a day of excess and celebration. 



Mardi Gras Marking Guide 


Gather on the weekend prior to Lent or if possible the Tuesday in February on the eve of Ash Wednesday.  


⟴ Invite those joining to bring costume jewelry, musical instruments, and noisemakers that will be used to represent the loud celebration of life that needs to be “shouted” before entering Lent and a season of being without.

⟴ Gathering your beads, music makers, Bluetooth speakers the crowd parades down the street offering “happy Mardi Gras” to anyone around inviting all bystanders to join in the parade. A great song to use is the “Mardi Gras Mambo” as a parade song. The parade ends back where it began and pastries and drinks are shared. 


⟴ Bring pastries decorated in green, purple, and yellow,

or gold, if you can bake or buy a king cake it is fitting for the celebration. The cake or pastries should have a little plastic baby hidden in the cake as tradition says the person who receives the baby will be in charge of buying the cake the following year. (We hold this tradition very loosely). Bring coffee or other intentional beverages. 


⟴ If you want to continue the celebration, invite close friends to stay after for a meal, traditionally to the Acadian French culture this would be gumbo, sweet potatoes, and boiled eggs. If you don’t know how to make this meal, no problem, choose a meal that incorporates a little bit of your own personal culture. 


⟴ As the meal is being shared and the king cake is being eaten, individuals are invited to share what they are giving up for Lent and why. Some ideas for good family Lent ideas are:

  • Fasting from social media.
  • A family might withhold watching family movies at night and play family board games during Lent season. 
  • Communities might choose to do something up together as a community, such as doing a cleanup project together. 
  • A group of friends might give up buying coffee in shops and put the money to a community garden at the church or in someone’s backyard. 
  • Families might choose to give a kind word or blessing to someone each day of the Lent season. 


⟴ Close the sharing time with a toast to the brave individuals who participated in today as a way to mark HOPE to sustain us through a season of deprivation. 




                Let us enjoy now so that we can remember our full bellies and gleaming smiles,

for tomorrow invites us into a season of being without. 

Lord, we thank you both for the plenty. 

Happy Mardi Gras to each of you.