All the Mardi Gras parades have to wrap up on Fat Tuesday because what comes next is a somber occasion: Ash Wednesday.
But this year some Christian churches are mixing a little color into the ashes.
Purple glitter is being used as a symbol of support for the faithful who are LGBT.
Episcopal News Service explains that ashes on the forehead signify mortality and repentance and on Ash Wednesday they're a sign to the world that the person wearing them is a believer preparing for Lent.
But this year some churches are adding another layer of symbolism. An Episcopal priest in the New York area got together with an LGBT advocacy group called Parity to create Glitter Ash Wednesday.
Parity says on its website that mixing glitter with ashes is a way of "blending symbols of mortality and hope, of penance and celebration." The group has been packaging glitter/ash mixtures and sending them by request to churches around the country.
The group's executive director tells USA Today: “This is a way for queer Christians and queer-positive persons of faith to say ‘We are here.'”
Fargo church participating
Parity's map of participating churches includes one in Fargo, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ.
Plymouth is holding its Ash Wednesday service at 6 p.m. but will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for people to receive ashes. They can choose between traditional ashes or Glitter + Ash.
Rev. Grace Murray wrote in the Plymouth Weekly Chronicle: "The glitter + ash is an open invitation to the LGBTQ community to be seen by God and everyone as people of faith."
Of course, this move to inject a new symbolism into Ash Wednesday does not sit well with everyone.
Rev. Ruth Meyers, a dean and professor at a divinity school in California, told Episcopal News Service the blending of symbols could be confusing or even "spiritually problematic."
Meyers notes that the use of ashes has a specific meaning.
“It’s an ancient symbol of repentance, of regret … our mortality,” she said. “To try to combine that symbol with glitter, which seems to be about a celebration and an affirmation of a particular group of people, seems to confuse the symbols in a way that doesn’t allow either symbol to work.”