Mardi Gras is a day of carnival, parades and competitions. Superiority and imagination are displayed in costumes, floats, bands and general magnificence. There are flowers, confetti, feasting and general hysteria of every kind.
Then comes Ash Wednesday, where reality overcomes the imagination and everything comes to a pause for solemn reflection.
Ash Wednesday is observed in countless churches worldwide as the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of abstinence and thoughtful study which precedes the joyousness of Easter.