CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For most of us, the thought of Mardi Gras calls to mind images of massive crowds of people collecting beads and drunkenly celebrating on Bourbon Street.
It's become a tradition for people to flock to the New Orleans' French Quarter on Fat Tuesday for a night of parades, costumes, drinking and various types of debauchery.
But the folks at a St. Albans church want to take back the holiday, which is part of the Christian liturgical calendar.
Today, St. Mark's Episcopal Church will host the fifth annual Mardi Gras Celebration in the congregation's parish hall.
"Basically a lot of people have a bad idea [of Mardi Gras] because of what happens on Bourbon Street, but it's an official Christian holiday," said Rebecca Rickaby, a member of the Episcopal Churchwomen, which is organizing the event. "We're trying to revive the holiday for our church and different area churches."
Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday," is the last day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the church's commemoration of Lent.
Lent, which begins Wednesday, is the 40-day period of preparation leading up to Easter.
During Lent, Christians traditionally fast or give up something as a way of preparing for Easter. Historically, Fat Tuesday has been the last opportunity for people to clean out cupboards of food that is likely to spoil during the fast.
The idea for the event came from a church member a few years ago. The church had been hosting an annual Christmas bazaar that was successful, but as several more organizations started having similar Christmas events, the church decided to instead host an event in February, when less was going on.
"We wanted to take it back," Rickaby said of Mardi Gras. "We don't get rid of Christmas because of the secular things that took it over. We wanted to have people celebrate life and their spiritual growth. It's a time of fellowship and a lot of good food."
The church's event, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, features a meal to include a choice of chicken gumbo, red beans and rice and pork BBQ. There's also coleslaw, a beverage and dessert.
Vendors will sell wheel thrown pottery, crotchet items, hand-turned wooden bowls and other items. Local photographers will sell photos as well.