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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Mardi Gras belongs on Tuesday

Published: March 11, 2011
Section: Editorials

The Brandeis community has traditionally prided itself on its long history of tolerance, embodied in a basic pillar of our institution: non-sectarianism.

Many Brandeisians, likewise, appreciated this week’s installment, held Wednesday, of Student Events’ outdoor music, free food and coffee offerings outside Usdan, on the main path up to the academic quad and many classes.

But some Brandeisians, we trust, had a very different reaction.

This past Wednesday happened to be Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the annual tradition of Lent for most Christian denominations and a day of atonement, memorializing and repentance.

We cannot be alone in seeing the jarring conflict between many students’ beliefs about Wednesday and an outdoor boombox, colorful decorations and cheering students on megaphones on the way to those students’ classes that day. (Free candy and coffee on the first day one is trying to give them up presents an entirely new inconvenience.)

Ash Wednesday is always preceded by large parties and celebrations the night before, in recognition of the sacrifice of the following month for Lent. But Mardi Gras was Tuesday—“Mardi” even means Tuesday in the original French.

The partying is meant to happen Tuesday so that all temptation is removed for the important day of reflection that is Ash Wednesday.

The student organizers’ encouragement to just “celebrate Mardi Gras a day late!” only mischaracterizes the week further.

We did not see all that many ashen crosses on our classmates’ foreheads, but the entire campus, like much of the world, is abuzz with talk of giving up chocolate, caffeine or other simple pleasures.

The Chaplaincy, in a mass e-mail, called Wednesday “for Christians to turn their lives around and to be more faithful to the teachings of Christ.” A more blunt description could not have been sent; in any case, ignorance is no excuse for such a blunder.

In recognition of the values and pillars that underlie this university’s founding, for the group to ignore the oversight would be unacceptable. We believe an apology is due.