By Patricia Leslie
It’s almost time for Christians to party hearty, and non-Christians are invited, too.
Tuesday is the annual celebration of Mardi Gras, or what churchgoers call, Shrove Tuesday when revelers fete the day and night before dawn when Lent arrives on Ash Wednesday to usher in six weeks of fasting and penance, following the example of Jesus Christ who fasted for 40 days in the desert, resisting the devil.
Some local churches will mark Tuesday with free pancake suppers and bacon, sausages, fruits and beverages. Weekend party goers can find area dances, parades, music, and even a Mardi Gras beer inspired and brewed by True Respite in Rockville.
Falls Church Episcopal at 115 E. Fairfax Dr. is hosting its free annual pancake supper Tuesday from 6:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m. while a few miles away, Presbyterian at 124 Park St. NE in Vienna will have its free pancake supper from 5:00 p.m. — 7:00 p.m.
If going to church on Mardi Gras (French for “fat Tuesday”) is not your thing, do you like to dance?
JV’s at 6666 Arlington Blvd. in Falls Church, will fete the night away from 8:00 p.m. — 11:59 p.m. with beads and “some fine Nawlin’s Swamp Pop tunes” by the Sookey Jump Blues Band. (Cover $10.) It will also serve “king cake,” a seasonal tradition, similar to a coffee cake but with icing in Mardi Gras colors of green, gold, and purple and a tiny plastic baby hidden inside. The baby brings good luck to the recipient who is expected to make next year’s king cake.
The Tower Club at Tysons, 8000 Towers Crescent Drive, will celebrate Mardi Gras on Tuesday with a masquerade party, 5:30 p.m. — 8:30 p.m. ($88 non-members; $40 members). Costumes are optional, but masks are “a must!”
Masks are another tradition, dating from the 15th century but the practice of disguising identity and making merrier has lasted for six centuries. Float riders in New Orleans’s huge Mardi Gras parades are required to wear masks.
The International Club will celebrate Mardi Gras on Feb. 24 at the Embassy Row Hotel at 2015 Massachusetts Ave. NW in D.C. with swing lessons beginning at 7:00 p.m. and a dance starting at 8:00 p.m. Partners and dance experience are not needed, but dressy clothes, especially Mardi Gras attire, are! Pay $35 for the lesson (and a glass of champagne) or $25 for no lesson and dance to the sounds of the Foggy Bottom Whomp-Stompers.
Celebrate this weekend in D.C. at Barracks Row at 8th Street, Southeast, near the Eastern Market Metro Station, and see a sidewalk parade on Friday, Feb. 17th at 6:00 p.m. or Saturday, Feb. 18th at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Beads, live music, and more are promises by merchants.
Not far away is the Wharf’s parade set for Saturday, Feb. 18, from 3:00 p.m. — 7:00 p.m. at 665 Water Street SW which will have floats, stilt walkers, the Washington Nationals’ Racing Presidents and a king and queen. A dance party follows at 4:30 p.m. with music by the Naptown Brass Band, and fireworks at 6:30 p.m.
Take a free shuttle to the Wharf from the National Mall or L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station.
Records show Lent dates from 1000 A.D. and that the British were eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday in the Middle Ages. The practice was to eat up all the butter and fatty foods before Ash Wednesday and the time of repentance, like now.
Burning palms from last year’s Palm Sunday services is another Shrove Tuesday tradition. The ashes are then used at church services on Ash Wednesday, including “ashes-to-go” in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square in Washington, from 8:30 a.m. — 9:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. — 6:00 p.m.
During Lent, Christians make self-vows to give up something as a means to test self-discipline, but a priest told me, you can add something, too, that’s good for you which, in my case, would not be sweets. (Pause) Yikes! Does this mean…..?
With the end of Lent comes Easter and Jesus’ resurrection, the promise of eternal life and forgiveness of sins for all who believe in him. Rejoice!