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What Is Fat Tuesday and Why Is It the Best Day of the Year?

Photo Credit: Gallo Images / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Gallo Images / Getty Images

Our favorite day of the year is fast approaching! Although February 21, 2023 might seem like an ordinary Tuesday to many people, it is actually one of the only days each year we are allowed to stuff our faces and eat badly!

Scene from the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus, played by Ted Neely, carries the Cross while flanked by anachronistically clad Roman soldiers, in a scene from the 1973 motion picture Jesus Christ Superstar. Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera written with music by Andrew Llyod Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

“Fat Tuesday” goes by many names, including Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday. For anyone familiar with the Catholic faith, Fat Tuesday falls before Ash Wednesday, which signals the start of Lent.

For Catholics (and some Christian denominations), Lent is a time for fasting and abstinence. The idea is one should give something up for 40 days before Easter to imitate Jesus, who fasted in the desert for 40 days before he was crucified.

Box of Paczki in Poland
A box of Paczki’s being carried in Krakow, Poland. (Photo Credit: NurPhoto/ Getty Images)

In other words, Fat Tuesday was originally seen as an excuse to indulge and party before giving all that up for 40 days. Fat Tuesday celebrations often include eating delicious foods, drinking alcohol, and any other pleasures that might be deemed “sinful.”

The name Fat Tuesday comes from the feasting part of the day. Fat Tuesday is the most popular name in the United States, but the day is celebrated worldwide for those who practice Catholicism. Those in the United Kingdom celebrate “pancake day.” People in Poland celebrate “Paczki Day,” and those in Germany celebrate “Faschnaut Day.” Both paczki and faschnaut mean “donut” in their respective languages.

Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans 1970
Mardi Gras Celebrations in New Orleans, circa 1970. (Photo Credit: David Redfern/ Getty Images)

The most famous (and best known) Fat Tuesday celebration is Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, with ‘Mardi’ meaning Tuesday and ‘gras’ meaning fat. In Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a legal holiday each year.

Fat Tuesday is the best day of the year because, technically, it’s an excuse for debauchery. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re religious because the holiday is essentially an excuse to eat badly and drink. So make sure to eat a donut on February 21, 2023!

Madeline Hiltz

Maddy Hiltz is someone who loves all things history. She received her Bachelors of Arts in history and her Master’s of Arts degree in history both from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Her thesis examined menstrual education in Victorian England. She is passionate about Princess Diana, the Titanic, the Romanovs, and Egypt amongst other things.

In her spare time, Maddy loves playing volleyball, running, walking, and biking, although when she wants to be lazy she loves to read a good thriller. She loves spending quality time with her friends, family, and puppy Luna!