Most of the parades take place at night. People crowd the sidewalks, there is laughter and joking, jostling for position, merrymaking and the occasional excess. Then out of the dark one begins to hear music. The bands go by, the uniforms glittering, the batons twirling. Huge floats appear out of the darkness, kings and queens in gold and silver, bright jewels, lovely women, handsome men, many mysterious behind their masks. They fling coins and beads to the crowds. People reach for the baubles, stretching out their hands over the heads of children to grab things from the air. You pile the beaded necklaces around your neck and immediately scream for more. “Mister, throw me something!” You crawl on the ground to snatch at coins and stuff them into your pockets before jumping back into the fray.
When you reach home, you look in the mirror and in the light what do you see? Cheap plastic beads. Colorful tin coins that will purchase no food, no shelter, no clothing. You lift the beads from your neck and suddenly realize how much they weigh. It is as if a burden has been lifted. The time has come for Ash Wednesday, the time to lay aside the false beauties of papier-mâché masks and plastic finery, the time to stop trampling other people to get things that sparkle in the dark but have no lasting value in the light. The time has come to be somewhere else.
Taken from Elijah and the Ravens of Carith