023 - Copy.jpgTrainees pray during the Ash Wednesday Mass held Feb. 26 at the Main Post Chapel. Attendees were marked with a cross of ash on their foreheads, a symbol of the dust from which God created man. (Photo Credit: Alexandra Shea)

By Alexandra Shea                                                                                                                                                                                            Fort Jackson Leader

As Fort Jackson community members celebrated Ash Wednesday Feb. 26, they were also taking part in another tradition associated with the Big Easy - Fat Tuesday.

While Fort Jackson may be more than 600 miles away from New Orleans, it didn't stop some from celebrating the season of Carnival and Fat Tuesday. While the tradition is commonly found within the Crescent City, New Orleanians took the opportunity to share a few lesser known creole traditions with those more familiar with the iconic Mardi Gras parades and beads.

"We invite everyone to experience Mardi Gras at least once in their lifetime," said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell in a city press release to tourists and locals.

Carnival is the season of feasting and frivolity that started Jan. 6 and ended on Feb. 25, known as Fat Tuesday. The season is celebrated with music, food, various balls, parades and alcohol for those old enough to enjoy responsibly.

In the Crescent City, Fat Tuesday is celebrated by locals as well as tourists. According to city officials, the city doubles and often triples in population as people travels from around the world to attend the annual event. Locals enjoy a day off of work as most of the streets in the historic and business district are closed as Mardi Gras Krews take the streets over for their colorful floats, costumed Krew members and throwing of beads.

Some staff members at the Barker Building on Fort Jackson had a chance to share the feast tradition with others by offering a spread of freshly made beignets, King Cake and chicory coffee as Creole jazz was played in the background.

"I've never had King Cake before," said Leslie Ann "LA" Sully, Fort Jackson Media Relations Officer. Sully received the slice of cake that the baby figurine was hiding in. "It's already brought me good luck."

King Cake contains a small baby figurine or dried bean and whomever receives the slice of cake with it, they are responsible for providing the next cake and are blessed with a year of good luck.

As Fat Tuesday winds down, the New Orleans mayor and chief of police walk along Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. As they pass businesses, restaurants and bars, the owners ceremoniously turn off the lights to mark the end of the Carnival season.

As the sun set on Fat Tuesday, feasting came to an end as some Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglican denominations and Roman Catholics rose the next day to celebrate the start of Lent with Ash Wednesday, a tradition of penance and fasting for the six weeks before Easter.

Fort Jackson's Religious Services Office celebrated the day by hosting an Ash Wednesday Mass at the Main Post Chapel. There, Catholics received the Holy Sacrament through Communion and the mark of faith with a cross of ash on their foreheads. The ash is a symbol of the dust from which God created man.

"Today we begin the season of Lent. A time set apart to take the opportunity to clean house and put the house of our life in order," said Chaplain (Capt.) Pawel Zemczak, the 120th Adjutant General Battalion chaplain. "The 40 days of Lent is the annual retreat of the people of God in imitation of Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness."

For the next 40 days and 40 nights, Fort Jackson community members will join others around the world as they forgo certain things such as meat on Fridays or sacrifice a personal vice until the Lenten season ends on Easter Sunday.

"We are called to journey with the Lord in a special season of prayer, fasting, alms giving and penitence as we prepare to celebrate the feast of Easter, the Christian Passover," Zemczak said. "The Lord gives us spiritual food and supernatural strength to seek his face and prepare ourselves for the spiritual combat and testing we may face in our everyday life."

After Lent, Catholics and Christians will again be able to enjoy the sacrifices they abstained from and will again gather during Mass and other religious services to celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, by their faith fellowshipping with thoes who share their faith.

Fort Jackson will help end the season of Lent by hosting the annual Sunrise Service at Hilton Field on Easter Sunday. The 6:30 a.m. service will feature music, praise and a sermon delivered as the sun rises over the field.