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Lent Around the World - Mardi Gras

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Pri) - Church Schools


To consider the celebrations of Lent by focusing on Mardi Gras.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, when Christians remember Jesus going into the wilderness to pray and prepare himself before he began to travel around carrying out miracles and telling people about God. During Lent, Christians spend time preparing themselves for Easter. Lent lasts for 40 days, the same amount of time that Jesus was in the wilderness.

  2. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, and we celebrate it in the UK by cooking and eating pancakes, and sometimes by having pancake races! This custom reflects the fact that Lent is a time for fasting. Traditionally, people would get rid of their stocks of rich food such as fat, flour and eggs by mixing them up to make something like pancakes.

  3. However, in some parts of the world, Shrove Tuesday celebrations are much livelier.

    Ask if any of the children have heard of Mardi Gras. Explain that Mardi Gras’ is French for ‘Fat Tuesday’. The name comes from the ancient custom of parading a fat ox through Paris on this day. The ox was to remind people that they were not allowed to eat meat during Lent.

    Lent runs from Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday. Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is always the same number of days before Easter. This means that the date changes every year and can be anywhere between 3 February and 9 March, depending on the date of Easter Sunday. Mardi Gras often involves parades, dancing in the streets, sports competitions and wearing masks and costumes.

  4. Although Mardi Gras originated in Europe, the custom spread to other parts of the world, including New Orleans and Biloxi in the USA and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Major Mardi Gras celebrations are held in Europe, too, including Binche in Belgium and Viareggio in Italy.

    In Nice, France, people wear giant masks in the Mardi Gras parade (they look like a bunch of walking heads with tiny bodies)!

    Show the image of Mardi Gras celebrations in France.

    In southern Italy, people dress up in costumes and put on an ancient play during Mardi Gras.

    In Binche, Belgium, people dress in colourful clown costumes (the clowns are called gilles). They wear bunches of ostrich feathers on their heads and dance in the streets carrying baskets of oranges, which they throw to the watching crowds.

    Show the image of Mardi Gras celebrations in Belgium.

    In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, people dance in the streets for Mardi Gras.

    Show the image of Mardi Gras celebrations in Brazil.

Time for reflection

Read Luke 3.21-22 and 4.1-2. The passage describes Jesus going into the wilderness after his baptism by John the Baptist.

Point out that the Mardi Gras festival is very different from the way in which many Christians traditionally celebrate Lent. Many Christians use Lent as a quiet time of reflection when they may give up something important so that they can focus their minds on God.

Dear God,
Help us sometimes to stop in our busy lives to take time to think.
Help us to think about you and about other people.
Thank you for Lent and the time of preparation before we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter time.

Publication date: February 2017   (Vol.19 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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