Lenten traditions & Mardi Gras

Lenten traditions feature Mardi Gras

By Emma Palova

EW Writings

Lent much like Easter is heavy in tradition. Back in the old country, former Czechoslovakia, we never baked paczki. They are just plain greasy, although some people baked “koblihy,” pastries like donuts made with pure lard.

The tradition has it that you have to get all the fat out of the house before Lent.

For Mardi Gras, which is Fat Tuesday, before Ash Wednesday, some people mainly in small towns and villages, dressed up.

The only time I dressed up with my husband was in 1998 for fasching karneval, the German equivalent of Mardi Gras.

Emma Palova with Ludek Pala at Fenn Valley.
Emma Palova with Ludek Pala at Fenn Valley.

It was held at the FennValley Winery in Fennville, Michigan. We decided to go for the gangster/avant-garde look of the 1920s. We found a costume shop on Division Street in Grand Rapids. I wore a storied dress with a feather sashay, a headband, and beads and held a long cigar holder. My husband had a striped suit with a carnation boutonniere and of course a hat that Al Capone would be proud of. We were missing just one thing.

The infamous violin case.

In vain I searched high and low for a violin case. There were no violin cases without a violin inside available. Lent was early that year, so the epic 1997 movie Titanic was still all over the place.

We rented a room at a local elegant bed & breakfast in Fennville. As we climbed the stairs, a couple decked in period attire was standing there. I paused to stare at them. I didn’t expect the Inn would have a butler and a maid.

“We’re from the Titanic,” said the woman as she grabbed her necklace. “This is my heart of the ocean.”

I knew we were in for a ride of our lives.

The winery dimmed lights for the event, so we didn’t immediately see the foursome stationed at the bar. As I got used to the light, I saw a gangster group.

“Hey, we’re directly from Chicago and we have a violin case,” one of the guys said holding up the case.

One group dressed up as a polka band, and they actually played brass instruments. The entertainment, food and wine were great. I even ran into a live Statue of Liberty.

I don’t think the winery had a fasching since. They swapped it for chili cook-offs, that don’t exactly have the same charm, but work well even without a violin case.

I wrote a story about the event back then for the Allegan County News and the Saugatuck Commercial Record.

The next morning a joint in Saugatuck, played the song “My heart will go on” from the Titanic.

Sometimes, I wonder if the fasching experience would have been as strong without the movie.

Do we process and remember by a strong association with something, by circumstances, by impact or by what actually happens to us?

I would like to go to the Rio de Janeiro Karneval one of these days.Read about my Lenten soups on the Travel & Food page.

Copyright © 2014 story by Emma Palova, photo courtesy of the Fenn Valley winery.



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