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Mardi Gras celebrations will begin Tuesday

A person need not be Catholic to enjoy the onset of Lent, which begins Tuesday with a world-wide celebration known as "Fat Tuesday." Mardi Gras takes on a party atmosphere and has throughout much of history.

Local Catholics celebrate at St. James Basilica but additional events take place as well. For many cultures it is a seasonal turning point meant to signal the end of winter and the promise of the joyous warmth of spring, or Easter.

Still others use it as an excuse to go crazy, and this includes some of the kids on the northern hill (James-town College Hill) who will be headed out for spring break the second week in March. Many will go to New Orleans and southern climes.

In our area at this time of year civic leaders try to push folks outside their warm homes and into shopping or businesses locales to mix with other folk and shed the winter doldrums through something we in the Upper Midwest call "Cabin Fever" days. Organizations and businesses put on events, sales and activities that give volunteer shut-ins an excuse to get outside the house and play. No, we have no grand parade with all the hoop-la of Mardi Gras, but that's OK. There's art galore all over town, shows and events that are both healthy and fun, and everyone gets to do the same things folks visiting New Orleans get to do, but wearing heavier clothing.

The sun streams at its lower angle into the deep parts of our homes, so we know it's there. The days are getting longer. Snow and freezing rain wreak havoc for months, but up here, we pay it no mind as long as we can get about our business of living. Groceries and gasoline still make it to Jamestown, the paper and the mail get delivered, and folks work day and night keeping streets cleared, providing healthcare, classes for the kids, church doors open (maybe not literally just now) and we have places to sleep, eat, shop and work.

It's during the waning days of winter that we usually get the itch to get out. That promise of spring is like a seasonal magnet pulling us up from the reassuring heat of the furnace into the breath-freezing reality of that walk to the car where hopefully the heater is working that day and the engine starts. But even with the cold realities of the climate, we have relative security in North Dakota, see the promise of changes as they come our way, and we can enjoy the silliness of fun things and alter our mindset for serious discussions. And we do all that without press coverage focusing on the "how-can-you-manage-up-there" spotlight we sometimes get on television.

We're doing OK. And the smaller but just as important Mardi Gras celebration we might see here -- as with Cabin Fever Days -- does us just as much good as the celebrations going on in warmer parts of the world. We can whoop it up with the best of 'em up here and enjoy it just as much with boots and gloves as those skimpily dressed parade goers in New Orleans.

One way to escape the mid-winter blahs is to get tickets for and attend "Crimes of the Heart," which runs from Feb. 26-28 at 7:30 each evening in the DeNault Auditorium of the Reiland Fine Arts Center at Jamestown College. Tickets are available by calling 252-3467 or via email, or at the box office in the Reiland.

If anyone has an item for this column please send information to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.