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All about Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, does not fall on a fixed date, although as the name indicates, it's always a Tuesday. The exact time depends on the date of Easter, since it is 47 days before. In Christian tradition, Fat Tuesday marked the end of a "fat" week which preceded the 40 days of Lent, a period of fasting leading up to Easter. Thus Fat Tuesday was an opportunity to empty out the larder and celebrate, finishing up all the "fat" foods in the house, including meat and eggs, before Lent.
Mardi Gras is marked by popular gastronomic traditions. In many English-speaking countries, it is is Pancake Day, while in other places doughnuts and other kinds of fritters are the norm, some dating back to ancient Rome. Pancakes and doughnuts were a chance to use up one's store of eggs and sugar and take on some reserves of energy before the fasting period. Today it's an occasion for a celebration with family and friends.
Mardi Gras is also the traditional time of Carnival, a word that comes from the medieval Latin "farewell to meat." From Venice to Rio, Dunkirk to Menton, traditional floats and parades of costumed and masked people moving through the streets remain a lively tradition, one that hearkens back to Roman Saturnalia. Above all, it's an age-old tradition of celebration at the moment that nature is reborn, during the symbolic passage between winter and spring.
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