Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Mardi Gras. Three holidays celebrated during the shortest month of the year. Three holidays with heart.
Valentine’s Day is all about romance, and the heart. Odd for a day that began as the celebration of a martyr. Or maybe not so strange. We can thank Chaucer for introducing the holiday in his Parlemont of Foules. He describes it as the day the birds return to choose a mate. Not likely to be a February day in England. Leave it to the French to move the date to February 14. Who better to determine a day to celebrate romantic love? The first Valentine’s days were celebrated with love poems. From husbands to wives. The burden of the Valentine gift has always fallen to the men. Candy came somewhat later. Either way, it’s a celebration of love.
1971 brought the first celebration of President’s (or Presidents’ Day) Day. The day originally honored only Washington. Custom and marketing added Lincoln’s birthday (February 16). These days all presidents are honored on the third Monday of February.
Washington and Lincoln were both men of great heart. Each had a legendary love affair with his wife. Martha Custis, a wealthy widow didn’t need to remarry. But she and George fell madly in love and after a whirlwind courtship, wed. Current scholars question the traditional view of Lincoln as the long-suffering husband and Mary Todd as having from some form of insanity. What comes through clear, no matter what version you subscribe to, is theirs was a towering love story. Lincoln’s devotion to his “Little Mother” is unquestioned.
Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent. In jolly olde England, the day is symbolized by pancake races. Women run through the streets carrying frying pans, each with a pancake, she must flip the pancake three times during the run, and not lose. That tradition has its roots in Lenten preparation and the desire to use up the last of the rich foods before the forty days of penance began.
The French saw things a bit differently. At least here in the US. They saw Shrove Tuesday as the last day to celebrate before the Lenten season begins. In New Orleans, this became Mardi Gras. A time to parade through the streets, display joy and toss a few tokens. A huge bacchanal. Laissez les bons temps rouler! Although originating in a religious context, these days it is a secular holiday for most. A huge party with the following penance the result of one too many.
The various Krewes of New Orleans put their heart and souls into building the floats. Each of which is secret before the float appears on the day. Mardi Gras is a passion for Krew members, one that consumes them most of the year. The planning, the meeting, the construction. Mardi Gras is a labor of love. It’s all about passion—and party.
So, today is Shrove Tuesday. How do you plan to celebrate, with pancakes or a party?
Kait Carson writes mysteries with a Florida flair. You can connect with her on twitter @kaitcarson, on Facebook facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor of by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org