Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Dust to Dust, Ashes on Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Christians who observe this day can often be seen with ashes on their third eye, as we commonly see devotees do after a fire sacrifice. Traditionally, the ashes come from the burning of the palms used to celebrate Palm Sunday.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the 40 days of Lent (Sundays are excluded from the count) which lead up to Good Friday. Jesus is believed to have gone into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days, and Lent is when Christians are expected to do some atonement and penance to reflect that. It is a period of introspection, a time for personal re-evaluation, a time to contemplate our mortality.

Of course, for too many, it is merely the day after the 8 days leading up to Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, where the last chance to party before Lent has turned into an even bigger festival than Ash Wednesday itself. A festival that in essence runs contrary to the spirit of Lent, a time of intoxication and glutting on dead animals.

Naturally, the dancing and feasting of Mardi Gras is more attractive to the senses then fasting and meditation. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a religion that had dancing and feasting, without the intoxication or meat eating, and ashes on the forehead to boot? Hari Bol, sounds like a market niche!


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