Before the sacrifices of Lent, people have traditionally held celebrations to let off steam and use up food that had to be given up for Lent.
The English call this period Shorvetide refering to being shirven, or making confession, in church.
Mardi Gras is French for fat Tuesday. It refers to the day you must give up cooking fats before giving them up for Lent.
Russians call the week before Ash Wednesday Butter Week in reference to giving up butter.
Germans hold festivals called Fasching or Karneval. The Polish call it Zapusty, Hungarians call it Farsang, and Greeks call the final week before Lent Apokries/
Elsewhere on the Web:
Mardi Gras 2007
Official site of Mardi Gras 2007 in New Orleans.