Today is Mardi Gras (or in thirty minutes, WAS). It is the end of the season called Carnival (spelling changes from place to place; the meaning is literally "farewell to meat") it is a period of celebration in which all meat and other items given up for Lent are gotten rid of. Normally, this means that you eat a lot of meat before Ash Wednesday to go without for the next fourty days. Todahy, it's celebrated in the US with the familiar scenes of New Orleans, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Fasching, Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, whatever you want to call it, is meaningless without the season to follow, though.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent. The tradition of the mark of ashes come from the tradition observed many times in the Old Testament, in which ashes are thrown over one's head. To those who observe Lent, it is a time of penance. Many give up certain things, good and bad. What is not always done, however, is using what was given up and giving it to God. This is God's challenge to us: if you give up the internet or television, give the time from that to God in helping others, meditation, or time in the Word. If you give up spending on things, give the money over to God.
Christ fasted in the wilderness for fourty days and was tempted. Even for God himself, this isn't easy. But if it was easy, it wouldn't be a sacrifice, would it?
Now is a time to give back to God and look forward to the love of the cross on Good Friday and the glory of the empty tomb on Easter.