Oh no, not another holiday?!  And even worse it's a religiously based holiday...
...the "church lady" in Martha will surely make us all feel like we're in Sunday school again.  Well, I'll do my best to fill you in while trying not to let the 
youth minister and teacher in me run a muck!
Mardi Gras Colors are purple, green & gold=justice, faith & power
It's Mardi Gras!
The literal translation from French is Fat Tuesday, since the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent is the climactic last day to live it up, chow down and pile on the fattening foods before the penitential 40 days of fasting begins.  But the entire time, post Christmas, is also know as the season of Mardi Gras and Carnival, and begins with Epipihany, January 6th.  According to biblical lore it took the three kings (aka, wise men) 12 days after Jesus' birth to find him and bestow upon him the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Some folks say the purple, green and gold colors represent the magi's gifts, but more often they are said to have been chosen to represent justice, faith and power.
This day is also know as Shrove Tuesday.  That name is derived from the English word shrive, which means to confess, since that is what Catholics are mean to do before beginning the Lenten season preparing them for the dark days of Holy week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday...and finally ended by the glory of Easter Morning!

The period of celebration varies from place to place.  Brazilians in Rio De Janeiro start on 12th night and party via "Carnival" until Ash Wednesday.  New Orleans is the biggest American city where Mardi Gras is celebrated Starting on Jan 6th as well.  Lots of European places celebrate the last week or "shrovetide"  while the majority of folks just use the final three days period before Ash Wednesday as "Mardi Gras."
The scope of celebrations varies.  The Streets of Rio De Janeiro are filled with 2 million people nightly participating in parades and street parties.  And on the humbler end, my church has a pancake supper and the kids make masks and don beaded necklaces.  Popular practices include wearing masks and costumes and generally throwing aside inhibitions and social convention with dancing, parades, sporting events, and general merry making.  Pancakes and pastries made with eggs, sugar and fat are the food of choice.  Though in New Orleans the King's Cake is the only way to go.
King's Cakes are brioche like coffee cakes, usually topped with sugar or icing in in the Mardi Gras colors and tucked inside is a little plastic baby (or in the olden days a porcelain baby, bean or nut!) Whomever gets the slice of cake with the baby is crowned the king or queen at the party.  Though some folks have other traditions for the finder of the baby...like having to host the party next year or bring the King's Cake to the next gathering! Click on any of the King's Cake Photos to link to their yummy recipes.
For those who want to celebrate without all the bad carbs and sugar I found a great "Mardi Gras" salsa, via food gawker.  It was originally from foodluvin.com, but the link no longer worked and searching their site I'm gathering it's no longer accessible.  Luckily I found their recipe somewhere else out in cyber space and combined it with their great photo with the gold, green and purple colors that make this a Mardi Gras appropriate dish!

Mango Chipotle "Mardi Gras" Salsa

1/2 bunch cilantro finely chopped
2 mangos peeled & chopped
1 red onion chopped
4 tomatillos roasted chopped salt to taste.
4-5 canned chipotle peppers in adobo
4 cloves garlic chopped
salt to taste

Combine ingredients serve.

Maybe you're planning a big Shrove Tuesday shin dig or perhaps just doing a little jig in your kitchen while you're whipping up pancakes (or salsa) for dinner on Fat Tuesday.  However you choose to celebrate Mardi Gras have some fun and eat some good food and put on this video of "Mr. New Orleans," Harry Connick, Jr., singing, "Here comes the big parade" and enjoy the music!  XOXO Martha