Mardi Gras is an unusual holiday for a church to celebrate, but one East Texas church does just that.
In the Episcopal tradition, we don’t sing ‘Alleluia,’ on Ash Wednesday, we give things up,” said Jeffrey Ford, organist and choirmaster for Christ Episcopal Church in Tyler, who is the event organizer. “This is our last chance to have a party for a while.”
According to the History Channel’s website, Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to “pagan spring and fertility rites.”
“When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England. Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the meat, eggs, milk and cheese that remained in their homes, preparing for several weeks of eating only fish and fasting. In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or ‘Fat Tuesday.’”
The Tyler church has been doing an event annually on “Fat Tuesday” for the last nine years. It used to be a pancake dinner, Ford said, but they changed to more traditional Mardi Gras elements, like gumbo, king’s cake and a jazz band, as well as arts and crafts and clowns for the children. The youth will hold the pancake dinner this time and have karaoke.
The event isn’t all for fun and games; the proceeds will be used in the church’s music department.