While growing up as a child, I don't remember Mardi Gras ever being mentioned. Apparently I had little curiosity or else there really was not a big hoopla over its events in the small communities in which we lived. Even as a mature adult, Mardi Gras takes me by surprise and I have to re-educate myself about its origins and significance. This year, from the brief excerpt I've copied from Wikipedia below, I learned (or re-learned) that Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday".
I got ahead of myself and celebrated Fat Tuesday a day early. I'll spare you the details. So for me today is ASH Tuesday. I think some of you will understand. I hope the rest of you don't MISunderstand.
From Wikipedia: Mardi Gras refer to events of the celebrations, beginning on or after the Epiphany and ending on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday" (in ethnic English tradition, Shrove Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which started on Ash Wednesday. Related popular practices were associated with celebrations before the fasting and religious obligations associated with the penitential season of Lent.
Popular practices included wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, etc. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition. In English, the day is called Shrove Tuesday, associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.