Q: What exactly is Fat Tuesday and are celebrations of it such as Mardi Gras and Carnival appropriate?
A: Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday and is so called because it is the last day before the Lenten fast begins, meaning it is the last day for celebrations (other than Sundays and saints’ days) until after Easter. Thus many mark it by celebrating in some way.
Although this is an area of opinion, my opinion is that Fat Tuesday celebrations are appropriate since they heighten the contrast between regular time and Lent and thus deepen the spiritual lesson taught by Lent. However, this is provided that the celebrations do not lead to immoral behavior.
Unfortunately, many people celebrate Mardi Gras (in Louisiana) or Carnival (in Latin America and the Carribbean) in a way that does lead to immoral behavior, and this must be strongly combatted.
However, the mere fact some people are abusing these celebrations does not warrant doing away with them altogether any more than the fact some peopel abuse Christmas parties or rip the religious meaning out of Easter warrants doing away with all Christmas and Easter celebrations or the fact that some Jews in the Bible abused the feasts of their calendar (e.g., the monthly New Moon celebrations and some of the key Jewish feasts) waranted doing away with the entire Jewish festal calendar. A small, non-excessive celebration by a person, a family, or a town is still appropriate.