February 22, 2012
Ash Wednesday, by Carl Spitzweg, ca. 1855
Don’t tell your co-worker he has dirt on his face; he’s been told this a dozen times already today, and it’s not dirt.
The ashes on his forehead, resembling the shape of a cross, most likely come from palms that were burned last year after Palm Sunday and were blessed by a priest. On the morning of Ash Wednesday, Catholic priests and some Protestant ministers mark their parishioners foreheads …Read more
Date varies. Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) falls on February 21, 2012
Scores of cities from Rio to Cologne host their own Carnival festivities during the week before Lent, but not many can boast a party that dates back to 1268.
In those days, the Venice Carnevale was frowned upon by the local authorities and the Church. The debauchery and gluttony of the celebration recalled ancient pagan rites that flew in the face of the …Read more
February 21, 2012
[published Feb. 5, 2008]
Mardi Gras, as I’m sure you’re well aware, is first and foremost a devout religious ceremony, marking the last day in the Catholic liturgical calendar that observing Christians can wear beads, eat pancakes and show their boobs.
Date varies. February 20-26, 2012
There’s no Mardi Gras or Carnival in Russia. Lent doesn’t descend on Orthodox Christians in one big swoop as in Catholicism, but in a series of events with increasingly strict regulations.
Triodion begins a full month before Lent.
Two weeks later, Meatfare Sunday marks the last day Orthodox Christians can eat meat until after Easter, aka Pascha.
The Sunday after Meatfare is Cheesefare Sunday, the last day for eating dairy products.
In Catholic …Read more
March 7-8, 2011
February 20-21, 2012
Rarely has so much joy emanated from such a small dot on the globe, and reverberated with as much noise as Carnival.
Trinidad and Tobago is the 172nd smallest country in the world, but per capita, it’s party spot #1.
In the 1770s Trinidad had only a few thousand inhabitants, mostly Amerindians; it was one of the most underpopulated regions of Spain’s New World colonies. Spain opened …Read more
April 4, 2010 April 24, 2011 April 8, 2012 Despite the overwhelming secular popularity of Christmas in the Western world, the big daddy of all Christian holidays is actually Easter. It’s the oldest Christian holiday and the most important.
No one knows for sure how the term Easter came to be. It probably derived from Oestre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring, Fertility and New Life. Which helps to explain why we still celebrate the resurrection with bunny rabbits and …Read more
April 24, 2011
April 4, 2010
In March the Protestant and Catholic Churches celebrated Easter; last week Jehovah’s Witnesses observed the Memorial of Christ’s Death; but today the Eastern Orthodox Church gets the last word, celebrating the Resurrection in what is known in many countries as Pascha.
The English word Easter is thought to derive from early pagan deities such as Eostre. In most Christian countries the holiday celebrating the Resurrection is referred to by variants …Read more
Holy Week comes to a close with the greatest and oldest of Christian holidays: Easter, or Pascha, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.
The Easter we celebrate today encompasses a confluence of traditions and rituals that merged during the holiday’s transformation across 2000 years and even more miles from ancient Jerusalem, through Asia Minor, Greece, Rome, and Central and Western Europe.
The name Easter itself may be one of the many relics of ancient European paganism. …Read more