Literally translated as “Fat Tuesday,” Mardi Gras is a celebration that takes place the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The idea is that people pig out on the foods that they are going to restrict themselves from during the Lenten fast. In some ways it’s akin to storing up for the long haul, like a bear that goes into hibernation. In this case however, it’s a mostly cultural phenomenon that gives people an excuse to party and to participate in debauchery.
Other countries often have similar celebrations called “Carnivale” which is translated “without meat” and thus provides people the opportunity once again to eat much before depriving themselves of meat for the Lenten season.