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I’ve left New Orleans for the frigid temperatures of the Thousand Islands region of upstate New York. As sad as I am to have left Mardi Gras before today’s climax of the Rex and Zulu parades, I think my liver is grateful. And now I’m getting ready to observe Ash Wednesday while traveling.
Living in the south, I’m used to the decadence of southern food, but I try not to indulge often. And when I get the special combination of southern mixed with Louisiana goodness, I lose control. This weekend was a long episode of eating every food that my body cannot tolerate (especially wheat and corn) with total abandon.
Not sure what effect southern food has? Check out this recent Buzzfeed video of people trying southern food for the first time!
My suitcase may be a bit too full of Mardi Gras swag. For those who haven’t been to the parades, the swag is more than just the infamous beads you hear about. All kinds of things get thrown. (Case in point, I came home with not one, but two light sabers on Saturday night!) I picked out a few of the more interesting non-bead throws and I’m going to make a care package to give away from my throws from the Thursday through Sunday Mid-Cities parades (including Bacchus, Endymion, Tucks, Muses, Hermes, and more)!
Interested in winning? Leave a note in the comments below. I’ll pick a winner from all the entries received by 11:59 pm Central Standard Time on Ash Wednesday (February 18, 2015).
Tomorrow my attention turns from decadence to reflection as we enter the season of Lent.
While different Christian faith traditions vary somewhat in their observation of Ash Wednesday, in many faith traditions it is encouraged or even obligatory to attend a brief observance service to “receive ashes”, the symbolic act of having ashes rubbed on one’s forehead in the shape of a cross. The ashes are derived from the burning of the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Ashes are viewed as an outward sign of repentance.
Some traditions also dictate fasting on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of the Lenten season.
This year, as in many years past, I’ll be traveling on Ash Wednesday. As such, I’ll be on the lookout for a service to attend to obtain ashes. I’ve found many places where I’ve been welcomed as a traveler in the past:
* Churches in the community I am visiting. Roman Catholic churches will be observing the holiday with a special mass on Ash Wednesday and in larger communities, may hold more than one including morning, lunchtime, and evening observances. In recent years, it has also become more common for Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Presbyterian congregations to observe Ash Wednesday rituals as well. I’ve found most faith communities to be welcoming of travelers seeking to observe the day.
* Airport chapels Airports with an onsite chapel will often have special Ash Wednesday observances for travelers, airport employees, and airline personnel. Chicago area airport chapels, for example, have a published schedule of available services. In Charlotte, there will be hourly services from 8 am to 8 pm. JFK will offer three services and have envelopes of ashes available all day.
* Faith-based organizations. Many of my client hospitals are faith-based organizations. I’ve sometimes received ashes at an onsite chapel while in the middle of my workday. (One year I actually attended with most of the executive team from the organization I was visiting.) Universities (either faith-based or with an active student ministry) can be a good resource as well.
But if you miss all of these opportunities, do not despair. Ash Wednesday is not a day of obligation in any Western faith tradition, not even Catholicism (although that is a common misconception).