One thing I love about being Catholic is its feast days. In fact, every Sunday is a feast day, in celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Easter is the grand celebration of feasts.
Leading up to Easter is the period of fasting we call Lent. There is certainly a plethora of articles on Lent. Anything I can think of has already been said, I’m sure. So I’ll write about preparing for Lent.
Jeffrey Tucker in "Catholics Give the Best Parties," asserts that our liturgical calendar has http://crisismagazine.com/julaug2001/feature2.htm created a certain sensibility that embodies Catholics to be "party animals." Since we have so many feast days and celebrations, Catholics naturally love to celebrate. Feasts like Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Feast of St. Dominic, etc. are occasions for celebration. First sacraments are occasions to celebrate. Jesus’ first miracle at Cana, was not a funeral, but a party–a wedding!
Perhaps your plans for Ash Wednesday, could include a party. That’s right. Not quite a Mardi Gras celebration a la New Orleans style: Zydeco, masks, or other "gras" antics, http://www.mardigrasday.com/mardigras/party.php but you could Dominicanize it. You could make your celebration half contemplative, and half active–half spiritual, and half party. http://www.catholicculture.org/lit/activities/view.cfm?id=572
You would need to start before Ash Wednesday. Three weeks prior to Ash Wednesday, as explained by theologian Michael Foley of Boston College, on the day before Septuagesima Sunday http://holytrinitygerman.org/septlent.html a ceremony that put the praise "Alleluia," to sleep until Easter, was held. That ceremony, is known as the "Depositio of the Alleluia", and marked the 70 days prior to Easter, or three weeks prior to Ash Wednesday. This was a period of mild fasting leading up to the serious fasting of Lent.
Meat and dairy intake would be curtailed until completely eliminated from your diet. Starting on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday you would become completely vegetarian. This week before Ash Wednesday is Carnival, from carne levarium. The last three days before Ash Wednesday was reserved for examination of your conscience, confession and penance, known as Shrovetide, from the English word to shrive, or to have your sins absolved. http://newadvent.org/cathen/13763a.htm
You don't have to have a celebration on exactly 70 days before Easter, or 7 days before Ash Wednesday. Since we’re Dominicanizing Mardi Gras, we can be democratic. You can vote what to do. Everyone can receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, have a Penance Service, have your own "Depositio of the Alleluia," hand out beads (Rosary, not Jerry Springer), take up a collection for the poor (real coin, not doubloons), and have a King Cake (Jesus, not a cupie doll).
One of the reasons for Mardi Gras was to use up all the dairy and sweets you had, because you wouldn’t be using it during Lent. Party on!