The Big Picture

Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday 2016

Pre-Lenten Mardi Gras celebrations wrapped up yesterday before the marking of Ash Wednesday today. Historians say the tradition dates back to Roman times, when the newly converted Christians retained vestiges of their pagan festival, “Lupercalia,” as a period of celebration before the penance during the 40 days of Lent.
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A member of the Mondo Kayo Social and Marching Club parades down St. Charles Avenue during Mardi Gras day on Feb. 9 in New Orleans. Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French, is a celebration traditionally held before the observance of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Christian Lenten season. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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The Rex rolls down St. Charles Avenue toward Canal Street in the New Orleans on Feb. 9. Dressed in elaborate costumes, dancing to the beat of brass bands and clamoring for beads from passing floats, thousands of people gathered in the streets of New Orleans to mark the culmination of the famous Mardi Gras celebration. (David Grunfeld/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via Associated Press)
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A reveler makes his way through the French Quarter during Mardi Gras day on Feb 9 in New Orleans. Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French, is a celebration traditionally held before the observance of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Christian Lenten season. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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A member of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club parades down Canal Street during Mardi Gras day on Feb. 9 in New Orleans. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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A beaded float driver waves to the crowd on the first Saturday of Mardi Gras festivities in downtown Galveston, Texas, on Jan. 30. (Stuart Villanueva/Galveston County Daily via Associated Press)
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A reveler makes her way through the French Quarter during Mardi Gras day on Feb. 9 in New Orleans. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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A rider throws beads as the Krewe of Endymion Mardi Gras parade rolls through New Orleans on Feb. 6. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)
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A member of the North Side Skull & Bone Gang stands against a wall waiting to continue the parade during the wake up call for Mardi Gras on Feb. 9 in New Orleans. Their costumes are intended to represent the dead and they bring a serious message, reminding people of their mortality and the need to live a productive and good life. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)
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A parade-goer dances outside on Bourbon St. for Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, in New Orleans, on Feb. 9. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)
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Revelers rest in a bar during Mardi Gras day on Feb. 9 in New Orleans. Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French, is a celebration traditionally held before the observance of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Christian Lenten season. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Parade-goers laugh and celebrate as the Saint Anne Parade moves through New Orleans during Mardi Gras on Feb. 9. People across New Orleans are marking the culmination of the Mardi Gras season. Floats and marching bands will parade down the city's St. Charles Ave. on Tuesday. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)
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A maid from the royal court of Endymion throws beads as the Krewe of Endymion Mardi Gras parade rolls through New Orleans on Feb. 6. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)
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Rex, the King of Mardi Gras, greets the crowd as the Krewe of Rex rolls through New Orleans on Feb. 9. New Orleans celebrated Fat Tuesday, the last day of Mardi Gras. (Dan Anderson/EPA)
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A parade-goer watches the Saint Anne Parade during Mardi on Feb. 9. People across New Orleans are marking the culmination of the Mardi Gras season. Floats and marching bands will parade down the city's St. Charles Ave. on Tuesday. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)
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A reveler makes her way through the French Quarter during Mardi Gras day on Feb. 9. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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A member of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club throws a coconut during Mardi Gras day on Feb. 9 in New Orleans. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Revelers makes their way through the French Quarter during Mardi Gras day on Feb. 9. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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A woman next to lighted candles prays during the observance of Ash Wednesday at a church ground in Manila on Feb 10. The 40-day period of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, with Catholics around the world observing the season which culminates in Easter Sunday. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)
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Filipinos with cross markings on their forehead as they attend a Holy Mass at a church during Ash Wednesday in Baclaran, south of Manila, Philippines, on Feb. 10. Filipino Catholics started the 40-day Lenten Season on Ash Wednesday by going to church to have their forehead marked with an ash cross sign. The rite is part of the culture of many Filipino Catholics, symbolizing their acceptance for the start of Lent and to show their sincere efforts and discipline to cleanse their lives of sin through prayers. (Francis R. Malasig/EPA)
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Nuns attend a mass during the traditional Ash Wednesday service, at the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Jose, Costa Rica on Feb. 10. Wednesday marked the first day of the 40-day period of Lent during which Roman Catholics are called to make some form of sacrifice, usually by fasting for a short period. (Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters)
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A Catholic faithful prays during Ash Wednesday on Feb. 10 in Cali, Colombia. (Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images)
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Father Matt Williams makes the sign of the cross on Samantha Warm as priests gave out ashes on Boston Common near the Park Street T Stop . (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
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An image of Jesus Christ is seen as Catholic faithful of El Jesus Nazareno brotherhood participate in the traditional Ash Wednesday service, at the Holy Cross parish in Panchimalco, El Salvador on Feb. 10. (Jose Cabezas/Reuters)
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A Filipino Catholic seminarian marks a cross on the forehead of a child during a Holy Mass at a church for Ash Wednesday in Baclaran, south of Manila, Philippines. (Francis R. Malasig/EPA)
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Roman Catholics devotees light candles at a church as the country marks Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of the Christian Lenten season in Manila on Feb. 10. The Philippines is Asia's bastion of Catholicism, with over 80 percent of the more than 100 million population belonging to the faith. (Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images)
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A Lebanese Christian woman stands in front of her shop, her forehead marked with an ash cross, as she marks Ash Monday in Beirut on Feb. 8. Middle Eastern Catholic churches mark the first day of lent in which priests make the sign of the cross with ashes on the forehead of their parishioners. (Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)
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The vicar of the National Cathedral Stuart Kenworthy flips a pancake during the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on Feb. 9. Shrove Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras, precedes Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
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A woman prays during Ash Wednesday mass at the La Merced church in Panama City, on Feb. 10. Ash Wednesday for Catholics worldwide ushers in a period of penitence and reflection, known as the season of Lent, that leads up to Easter Sunday. (Arnulfo Franco/Associated Press)
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