Easter, Lent, and Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Beads

Roman Catholicism has influenced the celebration of Easter. The date of Easter is determined by the full moon near the Jewish Passover. The first appearance of the new moon crescent of spring is the beginning of the month of Nissan or Abib on the Jewish calendar. Passover always occurs on the 14th of Nissan. The RC church, at the First Council of Nicea, in AD 325, decreed that Easter would never fall on Passover. They wanted to forever separate the church from the Jews. Many of the attendees to the council (called Holy Fathers) objected, because they wanted to continue to celebrate the Passover—that is a sentiment with which I agree. But the majority of them agreed that Easter should not be celebrated on the same day as Passover. So Easter always occurs the first Sunday after the vernal full moon unless the Jewish Passover occurs that day. In that case Easter falls on the following Sunday. Notice that I said that Easter occurs after the first vernal full moon. If, however, that full moon occurs on a Sunday, then the next Sunday is Easter.

This year, 2014 AD, or 5774 AM, is an example of that scenario. The first full moon after the Spring Equinox occurs on Sunday, April 13, 2014. Thus Easter is not until the following Sunday, April 20th. The first day of Passover this year occurs on April 14, 2014, so that does not affect Easter this year even though Unleavened Bread extends until April 21st.

Lent is the fast before Easter. The Lenten season of forty days developed traditionally and by several Papal decrees over the centuries. Basically lent is a period of forty days before Easter where people abstain from pleasures, certain foods, some meals, alcoholic beverages, sexual intercourse, etc., during there entire period. It was a gloomy period when there was sadness, hunger, and no pleasure. Today in America, the period of Lent is largely symbolic for most American Catholics do not go without during Lent. But still, in my family, some of those who are Catholic really did fast several times during Lent. They did not eat rich foods, abstained from meats, eggs, etc. My father’s side of the family is all Catholic. My father was a Baptist. He was baptized when I was a child. In my memories, two of my great aunts (my dad’s mother’s sisters) and their families really did do some abstaining and fasting. In the last few centuries, and especially in the Middle Ages, the practice of Lent was strictly enforced and many people did without during Lent.

Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday of the week that begins the forty day fast. It is called Ash Wednesday because at Mass on that Wednesday when the people went forward for communion, the priest would dip his thumb in ashes and dab a bit of ashes of the foreheads of all the people when they took the cup and wafer to celebrate the Eucharist (communion or the Lord’s Supper). Roman Catholics, as well as some other denominations,  take communion every time they attend mass or worship services. Roman Catholic communion is administered by the priest who places a wafer on the tongue and offers a sip from the cup. Yes, they all sip from the same cup. The priest wipes the cup between people, but they all sip from the cup. It contains real wine. I have participated in a similar type of communion at Chapel service on a military base. It was a Lutheran service. (In this service the pastor dipped the wafer in the wine and then placed it on my tongue). The ash is representative of mourning because the biblical Jews put on sack-cloth and dusted themselves with ashes when they mourned. (Gen 37:34, 2 Sam 13:19, 1 Chron 21:16, Est 4:1&3, Isa 58:5, Jer 6:26, Mat 11:21, Luke 10:13, Rev 6:12, 11:3, etc.)

Now for Mardi Gras. The words are French for “Fat Tuesday.” Mardis (pronounced “mar’-dee”) is French for Tuesday and gras (pronounced “grah”) is French for fat. Gras also means more, much, plenty, and several other things. Mardi comes from the Roman god of war known as Mars. Tuesday is Mars’ day. We get our word from the Norse god of war, called Tew of Tiw. So Tuesday is the day of the god of war.

It is called Fat Tuesday because the people, knowing that the next day started a long, laborious, unpleasant forty day fast, would have one last wild fling before Lent. It started by overdoing everything you could not do during Lent. So everything that could not be done during Lent was done to excess on Fat Tuesday. That is why it is fat, because of the excesses. That includes gratuitous sexual things like baring the breasts and other bodily parts in NOLA, for example. It is mainly about partying, carrying on, feasting, getting drunk, gratuitous, and promiscuous sex, etc. In other words, it is a celebration of debauchery. It is exactly what Satan likes. It is just like the pagan fertility rites.

I personally refuse to have anything to do with Mardi Gras because of its excesses. It is an orgy. It is just an excuse to be rowdy, drunk, and do all sorts of socially unacceptable things. It is exactly like the pagan fertility orgies. God is not in it. It is exactly like Moses found the Israelites when he came down from Sinai:

Exodus 32:1-6 “And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. {2} And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. {3} And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. {4} And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. {5} And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD. {6} And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

My thoughts on Easter are thus. Yes the word comes from the pagan name of the goddess of spring, that is Ishtar, or Oestre. But many faithful Christians are simply unaware of the pagan origin of the word and simply believe it is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. In fact Noah Webster in his 1828 English dictionary, gives this definition:


A festival of the Christian church observed in commemoration of our Savior’s resurrection. It answers to the pascha or passover of the Hebrews, and most nations still give it this name, pascha, pask, paque.

So most Americans, and especially those of the 19th century, celebrate Easter simply as Passover of Resurrection Day. They are not celebrating a pagan goddess and I hold them at no fault. After all, Paul says:

Romans 4:15 “Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.”

Romans 7:8b ” For without the law sin was dead.”

Romans 5:13 “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”

If they know nothing of the pagan origins of the word Easter and they do not worship those pagan deities of Easter, then they are not sinning by celebrating Easter. However, knowledge of Easter’s pagan roots and still practicing them is sinful. Personally, I would prefer to celebrate Passover on the true Passover day. But that is not the custom in the US.

As a Baptist Pastor, I was stuck with Easter. I always referred to it as Resurrection Day and not Easter. We worship Christ that day. I do not participate in church sponsored Easter events such as Easter egg hunts or Easter bunnies. Each of those has a pagan origin.

By the way, did you know one of the reasons for having decorated eggs on Easter? Eggs were a prohibited food during Lent. Therefore, on Easter Sunday, the day after the last day of Lent, everyone could eat eggs. Boiled eggs were used as gifts on Easter day. They were gaily colored and decorated. Let me quote from The Catholic Encyclopedia: “This general prohibition of eggs and milk during Lent is perpetuated in the popular custom of blessing or making gifts of eggs at Easter.”


Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? He is going to return to the world soon. Are you ready? When He does if you do not know Him as your Savior, you will join all those who do not know Him in “Outer Darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 22:13-14).

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Mark S. Oaks

Updated 2/13/2021


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