Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) falls on Feb. 25 this year. Think Mardi Gras or Carnival and it brings to mind New Orleans, food, parades, beads, partying, music, dancing, costumes, and masks. It started as a pagan celebration of spring and fertility thousands of years ago. Christian leaders determined it was easier to adopt the tradition rather than forbid it. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus took place after the Jewish celebration of Passover, so it was decided early on by the Catholic Church at the Council of Nicaea that Easter would always be after Passover. Jewish holidays are based on solar and lunar cycles, so the dates vary from year to year.
Lent is historically a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and it takes a lot of partying to prepare for that period of abstinence. New Orleans is the most well-known Carnival in the U.S. The ending of the period to eat, drink, and be merry is known as Fat Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, deriving their names from the custom of slaughtering a fatted calf on the last day of Carnival and then making pancakes to use up fat, eggs, and dairy before abstaining from them during the 40 days of Lent. All celebrations are halted at midnight in preparation of Ash Wednesday.
The Arizona Classic Jazz Society will celebrate Mardi Gras-style on Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Crowne Plaza Phoenix – Chandler Golf Resort in Chandler from noon to 4 p.m. The public is welcome. Cheryl’s Mardi Gras Jazz Band will entertain with the following musicians: leader Cheryl Thurston on piano, Roy Calhoun on drums, Pieter Meijers on reeds, Matt Mooney on banjo, Dave Richardson on trombone, Chuck Stewart on tuba, and Greg Varlotta on trumpet. Guest vocalist will be Michelle Severyn, step-sister of Gary Church.
Cheryl’s Cats & Jammers Swing ‘n Dixie Band includes a lot of musicians (local and snowbirds) who jam at the Arizona Golf Resort and Voodoo Daddy’s. They will be playing between sets for a continuous Mardi Gras celebration. Beads will be provided, there will be second line parades (umbrellas also provided), and prizes for best costumes.
Mardi Gras colors are purple representing justice, green representing faith, and gold representing power. The colors are thought to have been chosen by the Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff of Russia during a visit to New Orleans in 1872 and are often incorporated into Mardi Gras costumes. Costumes are optional, but you may want to include a Mardi Gras color that day.
Admission for ACJS members is $15, non-members $20; become a member on the 23rd and get in free. Membership for a full 12 months is $35 per couple and $25 single. For more information, go to www.azclassicjazz.org or contact Helen Daley 480-620-3941.