Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Lunar New Year

This is not just a big week for American football or the U.S. presidential elections. There are at least three other major world events that happen this week. The first is Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”), which marks (celebrates, commemorates) the last day before the 40 days of Lent. Lent is a period of 40 days in the Catholic Church where Catholics are supposed to prepare for the greatest celebration of the Christian religion: Easter. Part of the tradition of Lent is to fast (not to eat very much) and abstain from (avoid, not eat) certain kinds of food. This 40-day period always begins on a Wednesday, so the day before Lent begins is a time for celebrating and partying, because you won’t be able to celebrate for another 40 days again! In many places, this is called Carnival, and is a party/celebration that lasts several days before the beginning of Lent. Brazil, for example, has a famous Carnival celebration, with large parades and beautiful women dancing in the streets (I guess there may be some handsome men, too, but I never noticed!). Here in the U.S., the city of New Orleans, with its French Catholic heritage (history), also celebrates Mardi Gras, but it is not celebrated in very many other U.S. cities.

I said that Mardi Gras is on a Tuesday before the beginning of Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (today). Ashes are the black material that is left after you burn something, such as paper or plants. In the Catholic tradition, followed still by many in the U.S. and other countries, you go to church today to have ashes put on your forehead (the part of your head between your eyes and your hair, on top of your face). These ashes are a sign of your participation in this 40-day period of fasting and abstinence (the noun from “to abstain”).

Lunar New YearFinally this week, we have the Lunar New Year, celebrated tomorrow (Thursday) widely in many countries in Asia and cities in the U.S. and elsewhere that have large Asian American and Asian immigrant populations. Lunar refers to the moon, since the actual date of this New Year changes every year to follow the cycles of the moon. (Tonight is a full moon, meaning you can see the entire moon. The opposite would be a new moon.) Lunar New Year (sometimes called in the U.S. Chinese New Year) is also a period of celebration, with parades in the streets. Los Angeles has a Lunar New Year celebration every year, as does San Francisco, since both cities have a large number of Asian Americans. This is the year 4706 in the Lunar calendar, traditionally observed. This lunar calendar has an animal for each year in a 12 year cycle. This year is the Year of the Rat (an small animal that looks like a large mouse).

So…much to celebrate this week!


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10 Responses to Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Lunar New Year

  1. Fernando S says:

    Awesome explanation! Keep up the wonderful work! All the best, from Brazil

  2. chan bo says:

    I think tonight is a new moon. Everyone knows the moon is full every 15th in lunar calender. Lunar new year actually happens on 1st.

  3. hy says:

    Ha ha, We Chinese are celebrating the Lunar New Year now! In Chinese, the Lunar New Year is called “chun jie”. Literally, it means ” Spring Festival”. It’s the time for people to get back to their hometown to have a family reunion. I’m very delightful because this year is the year of Rat and I was born in a year of Rat.

    Dr Jeff, Lucy and all other staff of ESL Podcast, Happy Lunar New Year! “chun jie kuai le!” in Chinese.

    Best Regards from China

  4. Bill Ng says:

    Happy Chinese New Year from Shenzhen China!

  5. Jamshid says:

    Hi all PODCAST listeners
    It’s really nice to have fun by every celebration . We are as a big family .We can speak together . I hope soon comes time that all people (world village) are able to speak together .
    and this is nice celebration together and have fun .
    I love celebration and as I hear the people who are happy ,they can live more.Then try to enjoy your time . We live just one time .
    You can celebrate every day it is no matter is Asian , African , American… festivity .
    Look at the mirror every morning and try to laugh, then you can see you have a better day.
    Try to love everybody ,say hello to everybody say hello to sun , to moon,and all things…
    Say I live just one time and I must be HAPPY…
    Jamshid from Berlin

  6. Li says:

    Hi,I am in Hong Kong. We have four days holiday here(include sunday), and we are very enjoy these day as the economy is totally recover from the bottom since SARS (2003) . Hope all of you have a happy lunar new year.

  7. Marcelo Baesso says:

    You’ll for sure find beautiful people (male and female) in Brazil’s Carnival. People from all over the world come to our country to have fun, listen to good carnival’s songs, dating, etc. Please, help yourself.

  8. Kim Phung says:

    Hi, I’m from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We Vietnameses also celebrated the Lunar New Year in 6 days (from Feb 6 to Feb 11). I’m also Catholic. Because the Ash Wednesday is on Feb 6 and it’s also the last day of 2007 in the Lunar Year, all Catholics in Vietnam went to church that day to have ashes put on forehead but we’ll fast on Fri, Feb 15 instead of Wed

  9. Du Jordan says:

    Happy Chinese New Year to the staff of eslpod!

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