My meticulous research might get you an extra scoop of ice cream (or whatever your weakness is) once Lent is underway...
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No Devil in These Details!

Vintage postcard of Rex Parade, Mardi Gras, New Orleans
  When I was writing my first novel, The Crossings, based on a true story of my father’s who, at age 12 hopped a freight train here in Northern Kentucky and rode to New Orleans to see Mardi Gras, I had to do a lot of research to ensure I got the facts right regarding Mardi Gras. In doing so, I learned a lot about Mardi Gras, Lent and Easter, in general.
    I enjoy doing research and as primarily a writer of historical fiction, it pays to be accurate. One of my co-workers refers to me as a portable dictionary of useless information. Here are some tidbits I learned about Mardi Gras, Lent and Easter. You be the judge.
   Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday. Most people know that. But do you know when Mardi Gras season begins? It begins on the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th (Three Kings Day) and ends on Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. It’s called Fat Tuesday because traditionally it is the last day to be eating fatty foods before the ritual fasting for Lent begins.
    Lent then begins on Ash Wednesday. Everyone knows that, too. But how long does it last? Most will say, forty days. But do you know the forty days does not include Sundays? Lent begins March 1st this year and Easter is April 16th. That’s forty-six days, but there are six Sundays during the period so subtracting the six Sundays, nets to forty days. So if you give up ice cream for Lent, have a double scoop on Sunday, and you’re good. It seems like cheating but the rules are the rules.
   What about not eating meat on Fridays during Lent? This tradition was started by Christians in the early days of the Church. Meat was singled out because it is associated with celebrations and feasts. When you think about it, we usually do feature a meat entre at Thanksgiving (turkey), Easter (ham), Fourth of July, (brat or burger) so abstaining from meat during the penitential time of Lent made sense. Nowadays though, many prefer fish over meat anyway, so I suppose some of the abstinence from meat has lost some of its penitential value. Personally, if I never have to eat another Mrs. Paul’s fish stick, I’ll leave this earth a happy man!   
    Everyone knows Easter moves around each year and it’s nearly impossible to guess the date from year to year unless you’re possibly an astronomer. That’s because it is on the first Sunday after the full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox, which is the day that determines the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and fall in the Southern Hemisphere, usually around March 21st. Ever thought about that? How about, Easter is at the beginning of Fall, in the land down under. You could be celebrating Easter at Halloween!
    Okay, so what’s the earliest date Easter could be each year based on this new formula we just learned? March 22nd. We all remember early Easters when it was too cold to hold the egg hunts outside or you had to knock the snow off them once you found them. But what is the latest date Easter could occur in any year? That would be April 25th, nearly five weeks later. No wonder we hear the question asked so much, “When is Easter this year?”
    When I was growing up, Easter was a much bigger celebration than it is today. When we went church on Easter Sunday we were all dressed up in our newest spring outfits, especially women and girls with their Easter bonnets and white gloves. There were Easter parades or promenades in many cities, where people dressed up to show off their new and fashionable spring clothing.
   The most famous parade is the one held annually on Fifth Avenue in New York. When I was young, each year at Easter my father would sing the Easter Parade song written by Irving Berlin - “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, you’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade…” Anybody remember that one?
   So there you have what may be called trivia, but not useless information, about Mardi Gras, Lent and Easter. If you enjoyed it, drop me a line and let me know. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll just assume you were out looking for your new Easter outfit.  

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Mary Jo and I enjoyed our trip to Orlando where I received the Best General Fiction Award in the Florida Book Festival on January 28th for The Indian. Here's a photo of me accepting the award.

Barry Kienzle, Author
February 2017

Upcoming Events
SOKY Book Fest
Western Kentucky University
April 21, 2017

My next book festival is the Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green on April 21st, held at Western Kentucky University. It’s one of the highest profile book fairs in Kentucky and I’m proud to have been accepted to participate. I’ll have both The Crossings and The Indian there for sale and signing through Barnes and Noble.

Barry Kienzle is an award-winning Kentucky writer and author of two books based on his father's journey from boyhood to manhood, from the Great Depression through WWII.

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