The big Mystery of Mardi Gras is hidden in the upcoming Lenten season. Now, what comes to your mind when I say Mardi Gras is your own business, but it is likely an extreme and nefarious version of what is absolutely necessary: a moment set aside to recognize and honor those things in our selves that we would, on every other day of the year, rather not acknowledge or accept. Often called Carnival or Shrove Tuesday in the church, Mardi Gras is a time to become aware of our sin nature - the sins we nurture - and begin to prepare ourselves for the Fast of Lent. It is a time to join in community to acknowledge those dirty, dark, and speckled pieces of your self and our society that must be brought to light if it is to be ordered. If Lent is a period of cleaning, repentance, and sacrifice, Carnival is the the white glove come to test our sills and pull everything out of the cupboard.
Every civilized society must set aside a moment to briefly return to chaos - if for no other reason than to appreciate G-d's great redemptive work in our lives and acknowledge the wonderful journey of sanctification that remains. If we don't bring our dirty bits into awareness, how will we ever know what needs cleaning? I just so happen to enjoy a good dose of chaos and I love Christ's redemptive work, so Mardi Gras has always been - and this is no joke - my favorite holiday. Right or wrong, I like it better than Christmas.
Further, the excess and playfulness of the Mardi Gras season (especially if you live on the Gulf Coast) is an incredible prelude to the leanness of Lent. If nothing else, the contrast alone can startle even the simplest human to worship. Go to parades, encourage dressing up, and eat tons of kings cake. There is a theology of dress in scripture. If you'll pay attention, your children can speak to you and you to them through costume. Go for it.
Here are my costumes from the last two years....
Stay tuned tomorrow for a few specific Fat Tuesday suggestions (party planing and crafts, woot) that will certainly help your children bridge the threshold and enter Lent, Mystery and all.