Enjoy life while you can--that's the philosophy underlying Mardi Gras. Translated from the French, it's "Fat Tuesday," the night before Ash Wednesday, signaling the end of the traditional denial of pleasures great and small during the religious observation of Lent.
Mardi Gras is the culmination of carnival celebrations that began on Three Kings Day on Jan. 6. In Sweden, Fat Tuesday is called Fettisdagen; in Slovenia it's called Kurentovanje (and it's customary to eat doughnuts). The cities most famous for their Mardi Gras celebrations include New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, Venice, Bahia and Mazatlán. Nowadays, it seems like more people celebrate carnival and Mardi Gras than observe Lent--but, hey, any excuse for a party. In the North Bay, Fat Tuesday takes on many guises, many of which have nothing to do with Tuesday at all.For those who savor a good stogie--and even those who don't--there's the Mardi Gras Cigar Tasting complete with music and prizes for best costume and mask in downtown Napa on Friday, Feb. 16. Baker Street between First and Main streets. 6pm to 9pm. Free. 707.255.4434.Dance to swing and jazz, enjoy casino-style gambling, bid on auction items and nibble gumbo, desserts and more at the annual Napa Mardi Gras Celebration at the Boys and Girls Club of Napa Valley on Saturday, Feb. 17. 1515 Pueblo Ave., Napa. 5:30pm to 10pm. $40-$50. 707.255.6499, ext. 9.For animal lovers, there's the Humane Society of Sonoma County's Bacchus for Barkkus, replete with canine dress-up, music by the Baby Seal Club, a puppy cake walk, costume contest, food, wine and more on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Starlight Wine Bar. In the Gravenstein Station, 6761 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol. All day long, from 1pm to 4pm; and again from 5pm to 11pm. 707.823.1943.Get further into the swing of things with Brazilian Mardi Gras festival fun sparked by the French gypsy funk sounds of Dgiin at the Raven Theater on Sunday, Feb. 18. 115 North St., Healdsburg. 8:30pm. $10-$12. 707.443.6335.What's Mardi Gras without Cajun-style food? Cookbook author Terri Pischoff Wuerthner presents "In a Cajun Kitchen: Authentic Cajun Recipes and Stories from a Family on the Bayou" on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at Copperfield's Books. 140 Kentucky St., Petaluma. 7pm. Free. 707.762.0563. That same night, Cindy Rice leads the Rajin' Cajun hands-on cooking class on Mardi Gras foods at the Ramekins Culinary School. 50 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 7:30pm. $80. 707.933.0450.
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