HAND BOOK OF MARDI GRAS
The Carnival, properly speaking, begins with the first of the new year, and the festivities commencing with the congratulations and friendly wishes appropriate to that time, increase in fervor until they end in the wild whirl of the grotesque and merry parades and shows of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) so-called in France, the "favorite child of the church" because it is followed by Ash-Wednesday, ushering in the solemn season of Lent.
In the Catholic church the day is known as; Shrove-Tuesday, or Shrove Tide (Aug. Sax. Scrifan- to confess) because "in the good old times" of the church, her faithful children were wont on that day to make their shrift, confess their sins, and prepare to enter upon the season of fasting and prayer with proper spirit. After confession they were accustomed to spend the remainder of the day in amusements, all kinds of which were tolerated by the church, provided of course, these were within the bounds of reason.
In olden times, in merry England, after making their confession, the people commenced their festivities with a dinner, of which pancakes or fritters formed an important part, and hence the day was vulgarly known as Pan-Cake Tuesday, and the bells rang on that day as Pan-Cake Bells.
The Carnival is of heathen origin, and was generally accompanied by great excesses. To celebrate the end of winter on the near approach of spring, among the pagans, national feasts were held in honor of certain gods.
Among the Greeks and Romans, and the Southern nations, Bacchus, the god of the grape or wine, was honored, hence the Bacchanalia - Pan or Lupercus - the god of herds and flocks - hence the Lupercalia. At these festivals men and women, becoming intoxicated in honor of the god, dressed in grotesque manner, many crowned with wreaths, ran about committing all kinds of excesses, accompanied by others playing on different musical instruments, and singing the wildest of songs.