Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday came yesterday and Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) the day before. Therefore we are now in the Lenten Season. That season, measured on the calendar, is 46 days long—or is it 36 or 40? On that subject I’ve written earlier here (here). Suffice it to say, that days of fasting are on weekdays, and Sundays are not counted, therefore 40; but counting Sundays, 46. Easter will fall on March 27 in 2016.

Now Easter is a movable feast, being based on a lunisolar calendar, one that combines the features of the solar (Gregorian) and of the lunar calendar. The earliest that Easter can fall is March 22; the latest is April 25. The earliest Easter was celebrated last in 1818 (with Ash Wednesday on February 4) and will next appear in 2285. The latest was last celebrated in 1943 (Ash Wednesday on March 10) and will occur again on that late date in 2038.

The ash used yesterday to mark the foreheads of believers, so the Catholic Encyclopedia tells me, was made by burning palm leaves blessed on Palm Sunday of 2015. Palm Sunday? It is the Sunday before Easter.

Now, what with this being a Christian nation (or so we’re told by multiple presidential candidates), the food industry will presumably soon begin reporting a catastrophic decline in sales and profits—with the WSJ angrily demanding that the Federal Funds Rate be lowered in compensation. We’ll all be fasting on weekdays. Therefore, last Tuesday, we had our last indulgent weekday Eating Jamboree—Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras.

A penultimate (look it up) comment. The Muslims also have an extended religious fasting season, Ramadan. It last 29 days, so we fast more. Moreover, we were first—which I add to encourage our presidential contenders. But the Muslims use a lunar calendar—hence their feast really moves about the year. Their religious calendar has 10.87 days fewer than ours. One of our presidential candidates will no doubt fix that—and have the Muslims bear the cost.

The ultimate comment is that this post owes everything to Jeb Bush. He showed up at a rally with an odd mark on his forehead. Brigitte asked what that odd blur on his forehead was. My role is to know it all. “It must be Ash Wednesday,” I said. Then I looked up the date and then Jeb’s religious affiliation. He is a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism. There must surely be a woman behind that shift…

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