Mardi Gras is a celebration that takes place on the day before Ash Wednesday, ie, the day before the beginning of Lent.
It is observed as a holiday in parts of America and Canada. Due to grand parades and celebrations, schools and businesses remain closed for the day.
What Is Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French and that is also another name for this festival. People dedicate this day to binging on rich foods and alcohol before giving them up for the 40 days of slow and fasting before Easter.
The Origin Of Mardi Gras
The Catholic observance, Mardi Gras, dates back to 17th-century Medieval Europe. However, few customs originated from Roman Pagan rituals that marked the onset of Spring.
Jean Baptiste le Moyne Sieur de Bienville introduced Mardi Gras in America in 1699. He arrived at a settlement near New Orleans and named it 'Pointe du Mardi Gras'.
Officially, the first recorded celebration of this day in the country took place in 1703.
Slowly, the festivals became popular in New Orleans and other French Settlements and took the shape of street parties, masked balls, and extravagant dinners.
In 1827, after witnessing how Mardi Gras was celebrated in Paris, a group of students wore costumes and danced in the streets of New Orleans.
The first Mardi Gras parade took place in 1837 after a group of students witnessed the grand celebration of Mardi Gras in Paris in 1827.
With the grandiose nature of the celebrations, secret societies known as Krewes were being formed that was responsible for organizing the balls and parades.
This was proposed by the Mistick Krewe of Comus who arranged the first grand procession in 1857.
Since then the Krewes have been a big part of the Mardi Gras traditions. Most of them are exclusive but a few accept open membership.
The Traditions Of Mardi Gras
- The official colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold which symbolize justice, faith, and power. Those who take part in the celebrations are encouraged to wear similar colored costumes.
- Traditionally, people wore masks so that they could celebrate freely without caring about their reputation or status. People can only legally be part of a float if they are wearing masks.
- The most popular tradition of the festival is throwing beads and other trinkets. These are considered special treasures and people collect as many of them as possible. Historically, the beads were made up of glass.
- The New Orleans' King Cake is usually a plain cake sometimes baked with fruits and nuts and iced in the traditional colors. The fun part about King Cakes is that they have a plastic baby put inside the cakes. Whoever gets the slice with the baby inside of it must bring the King Cake to the parties the following year.
Fun Facts About Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is also known as Shrove Tuesday.
It is the last day of the Carnival Season
Mardi Gras Indians wear new suits every year that are hand sewed with a ton of beads.
The Krewes choose a different theme for the festival each year.
Before catching the beads or trinkets, they say the phrase "Throw Me Something, Mister"