The Christian celebration of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents is still widely celebrated in certain denominations which use Ash Wednesday as a sign of human mortality, mourning and repentance towards God. The ashes are gathered from the burning of palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/ash-wednesday
Jesus spent 40-days fasting in the wilderness where He endured temptation from Satan. Of the 46 current days of what is described as “Lent”, six days are not counted which are Sundays since each Sunday is considered a “feast” day during Lent.
Lack ashes in the sign of the cross are put on the foreheads of observers which is traditionally retained until the ashes wear off. The priest or minister recites one or both verses from the Bible while the ashes are administered:
“Remember that thou are dust, and to dust thou shalt return” which is Genesis 3:19, and “Repent, and believe the Gospels”, which is taken from Mark 1:15.
Ash Wednesday observances are mainly observed by the Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists. It is a time of reflection, repentance, abstinence, fasting and prayer.
The day before Ash Wednesday for preparation is called “Shrove Tuesday”, however it is better known today as “Fat Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras”. What used to be a Christian celebration has degraded to the secular practices of observing spring and fertility observances. Also called “Carnival”, much debauchery and general silliness is practiced which many “let their hair down” since the next 40-days of Lent can be a serious occasion for giving up vices of the flesh and mind.
After the over the top celebrations conducted during Mardi Gras, you can bet there is plenty of repentance necessary to re-establish righteousness with God. It will take a good 40-days for the ceremonial cleansing.
New Orleans is famous for the outrageous during the Fat Tuesday madness, however “Carnival” celebrations in Venice and Brazil have established itself as prime party locations for Mardi Gras.
The church probably holds their collective noses during the activities before Lent as many religions besides Christianity have participants that take part in the celebrations.
You can be certain the confession processes are in full use after the Mardi Gras conclusion.