ANSWER: Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday)

This holiday, which always falls on a Tuesday, marks the day before the 40-day period of fasting and preparation for Easter. The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday, which usually falls in February or March. The pre-Lent season is known as Carnaval and is especially popular in Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, Venice, and all over Europe and Latin America.


Throughout the years, unholy people have used the day before Lent as an excuse to wallow in excesses and gluttonous behavior. Often the Church takes measures to discourage the recklessness by encouraging prayers, devotions, and special Masses on this day.


What are the upcoming dates of Mardi Gras? February 20 in 2007, February 5 in 2008, February 24 in 2009, February 16 in 2010, March 8 in 2011, February 21 in 2012, February 12 in 2013, March 4 in 2014.


Thomas Aquinas on fasting In Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas describes two reasons for Christian fasting: “deletion of sin” and “the raising of the mind to heavenly things.”


Origin of Lent:

Within a few centuries after Christ, we see many Christians fasting for 40 days.


But initially, the length and type of pre-Easter fasting varied from region to region.


In 190 A.D., St. Irenaeus wrote "some think they ought to fast for one day, others for two days, and others even for several, while others reckon forty hours both of day and night to their fast"


In the end, a period of 40 days was established for Lent because Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert. Forty is also the number of days that Moses traveled in the desert with the Israelites, and the number of days of rain in the story of Noah’s ark.

A 40-day Lenten season was established by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.


Jesus said “….but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast." - Matthew 9:15


In the first few centuries after Christ, some regions emphasized refraining from favorite foods, while other regions emphasized refraining from all food intake for periods of time.


In 339 A.D., St. Athanasius urged a 40-day fasting period prior to Easter to the people of Alexandria, tell the people that the rest of Christiandom was already doing it. According to Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Irenaeus, “after having traveled to Rome and over the greater part of Europe, wrote in the strongest terms to urge this observance upon the people of Alexandria as one that was universally practiced, "to the end that while all the world is fasting, we who are in Egypt should not become a laughing-stock as the only people who do not fast but take our pleasure in those days".”



Catholic Encyclopedia on Lent, Pope’s Message on Lent, Lent & Fasting, History of Lent, Brief History of Lent,  Lent, Fasting During Lent, Shrovetide