Did you know that Mardi Gras is related to the Christmas season, specifically to Epiphany, the day the Church celebrates the arrival of the three kings at the manger?

The Mardi Gras colors stand for the gifts of the Three Kings – purple for myrrh, green for frankincense, and gold, well, for gold.

That’s why there is a tradition of serving a Kings Cake at Mardi Gras. By custom, the cake cannot be a loaf. It must be a circle or an oval, to symbolize the eternity and perfection of God. Icing of purple, green and gold covers the cake like a royal mantle. A small figure of a Baby Jesus is placed inside the cake. The person who gets the slice with the Baby gets to host the next year’s party.

The season of Carnival starts on Epiphany (January 6). The Latin root of the word Carnival is carne vale, which means “farewell to meat.” This farewell to meat and fat culminates in Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday).

Carnival happens in what is called Ordinary Time in the church calendar. We are invited to focus on more than Jesus’ birth (Christmas) and Resurrection (Easter). Celebrating and working to emulate the loving inclusive life of Jesus every day as we strive to love our neighbors as God loves us is what we are called to do.

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