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*foot notes

February 23, 2001|JAMES E. FOWLER

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent, leading up to Easter Sunday. The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is known as Fat Tuesday or as the French call it, Mardi Gras.

* The early Roman Church fathers fixed Christmas Day on Dec. 25 to roughly coincide with the winter solstice, but decided other holy days would not be fixed. Easter Sunday can be any Sunday from March 23 to April 25--each year it is the Sunday that follows the first full moon after the spring equinox. This year: April 15. Mardi Gras is always 47 days before Easter Sunday.

* Catholics are generally encouraged to "give something up" for Lent. Typically, someone might abstain from eating sweets, drinking liquor or some other "vice" during the 47-day period. The word "carnival" is said to come from Latin meaning "farewell to the flesh." So, Fat Tuesday represents the last chance to enjoy earthly pleasures for 47 days.

* The most famous Mardi Gras celebration in the United States is New Orleans'. But the nation's oldest Mardi Gras celebration is in Mobile, Ala., dating to 1704. In New Orleans, private clubs, known as "Krewes," have sponsored various parties and parades each year since the 1850s. The official colors of New Orleans Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold. Other U.S. cities have their own celebrations, new and old, including San Francisco, San Diego; Baton Rouge, La.; Pensacola, Fla., and Port Arthur and Galveston, Texas. Worldwide, traditional celebrations occur each year in Rio De Janeiro; Veracruz, Mexico; Trinidad; Venice and Ivrea, Italy, to name just a few.

* Several Internet companies offer free electronic Mardi Gras cards to e-mail to friends, including http://123greetings.com, http://bluemountain.com, http://care2.com and -http://greetsomeone.com.

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