Today is Ash Wednesday, the 1st day of Lent. For the next 40 days, Christians, as best they can, turn their backs on earthly delights and renew their commitment to God. Traditionally they give up something they enjoy, and take up something that may be of service to others. Each in their own way make sacrifices.
It is in anticipation of this behaviour, that the carnival ethic of Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and so on has evolved. Christians around the world have relished the last chance to sing and dance and make merry, before the 40 days of fasting and abstinence begin.
Much like Christmas, Mardi Gras has been taken to heart by secular society, as another opportunity for revelry and excess. As usual they are eager to join in any celebration, but baulk at the idea of personal sacrifice. Where’s the fun in that? It is impossible for a non-believer to understand the joy the faithful experience in the performance of their Christian duties. Still, as at Christmas, I feel compelled to encourage everyone to at least consider the origins of the traditional celebrations they so heartily embrace.
No matter what we believe, most of us can own up to falling a little short in the human kindness department. That in particular is what I hope to work on and improve in myself this Lent.