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  • It's Mardi Gras Time

    by Judy Perin

    The season of Carnival is about to come to an end on Tuesday. The season of Carnival begins from the Epiphany which is January 6th and ends on Shrove Tuesday or the day preceding Ash Wednesday. Carnival's end signals the beginning of the 40 days of Lent, a time of repentance, reflection and a time of abstinence.

    Carnival or Mardi Gras is celebrated in Central America, Europe, South America, the United States, the Caribbean Islands and by Christians throughout the world. Carnival comes from the Latin word carne vale which means 'farewell to meat', but today's definition generally is to give up or abstain from the pleasures of favorite foods during the Lenten season. It is celebrated by masked balls, lavish costumes, parades, dancing, fireworks and feasting on all types of food.

    Perhaps the most famous Carnival celebration takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The celebration goes on for four days. There are parades, costume balls, dancing and celebration after celebration. Italy's famous Carnevale celebration takes place in the gondola city of Venice. This is an opportunity for everyone to put on a costume and celebrate amongst each other. Rich and poor gather together to participate in Carnevale celebrations and there are no cares of who is rich and who is poor.

    Like all holidays the Italians have a variety of traditional foods that they like to enjoy during this festive occasion. The foods they like to eat include cenci, chiacchere, frittelle di riso, Grande Lasagna di Carnevale, sanguinaccio, tortelli and Venetian cream fritters

    The United States carries on a flamboyant Carnival celebration which begins two weeks before Ash Wednesday in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is the last day of celebration in New Orleans and is named this because the day before Lent begins was generally the time to use up all of the milk, butter and eggs in the kitchen. The New Orleans celebration is perhaps the most attended. It has attracted over one million people every year and is known for it's King's Balls and it's Parades full of decorated floats, marching jazz bands, and the tossing out of decorative beads. These parades are given by the Krewes, which are private clubs that sponsor not only the parades, but the parties and the lavish balls. Beignets, which are square doughnuts, along with King Cakes, are also associated with the Carnival Season in New Orleans. King Cakes are round cakes that are frosted with sugar in the three colors associated with Mardi Gras. These colors are Purple, Green and Gold. Tiny dolls are hidden in the King Cakes and whoever receives the piece of cake that contains the baby doll is the person who holds the next King's Ball.

    Another sign of the beginning of the Lenten Season are Pancake Suppers at your local church held on the day before Ash Wednesday. This day is known a Shrove Tuesday taking its name from the word 'shrive' or to confess your sins. The tradition of having these Pancake suppers is believed to have started sometime in the Middle Ages and was started as a result of Lent. You never need a reason to eat pancakes, but the annual Pancake Supper has become a tradition to overindulge with stacks of pancakes before Lent begins. Some people believe you should eat the pre Lent pancakes with Lemon Juice and Sugar drizzled on them, others believe they should be served up with warm maple syrup and butter. I use a traditional Bisquick Pancake Recipe adding to it 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice, 4 Teaspoons of Sugar and 2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder to create a fluffy and airy pancake. Some pancake suppers serve up the Traditional Buttermilk Pancake recipe along with Blueberry Pancakes and Apple Pancakes, while other suppers serve up Potato Pancakes.

    From Venice to Rio to New Orleans, wherever and however you celebrate Carnival, enjoy the opportunity to indulge, feast and frolic in all of your favorite foods, desserts and baked goods before beginning the 40 days of Lent.

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