History of Mardi Gras
Find out more about the history of Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, and how the holiday came to be synonymous with New Orleans.
A Christian holiday and popular cultural phenomenon, Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Also known as Carnival, it is celebrated in many countries around the world–mainly those with large Roman Catholic populations–on the day before the religious season of Lent begins. Brazil, Venice and New Orleans play host to some of the holiday’s most famous public festivities, drawing thousands of tourists and revelers every year.
10. In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” The word “carnival,” another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, may also derive from this vegetarian-unfriendly custom: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat.
9. Mardi Gras is actually a day of preparing for the Lenten season which starts on Ash Wednesday. It really is to reflect on the past year before observing 40 days of Lent. Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the meat, eggs, milk and cheese that remained in their homes, preparing for several weeks of eating only fish and fasting. In the Middle Ages, the Catholic church indicated that the days during Lent no meat was to be consumed. Only fish was allowed. So, “Fat Tuesday” was name this basically because people would eat the last of their meat because if it wasn't eaten, it would have to be discarded.
8. The official colors of Mardi Gras are:
Purple: This signifies justice.
Green: This represents faith.
Gold: This stands for power.
7. Mardi Gras is full of events that are organized by krewes (private clubs). The Captain of the Krewe is more important than the King. On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students donned colorful costumes and danced through the streets of New Orleans, emulating the revelry they’d observed while visiting Paris. Ten years later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place, a tradition that continues to this day. In 1857, a secret society of New Orleans businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized a torch-lit Mardi Gras procession with marching bands and rolling floats, setting the tone for future public celebrations in the city. Since then, krewes have remained a fixture of the Carnival scene throughout Louisiana. Other lasting customs include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake.
6. One of the most popular Mardi Gras traditions is the King Cake. A plastic baby is baked inside the coffee cake. The person who finds the baby will supposedly have good luck for the next year, and in turn will supply the King Cake for the next year.
5. Any beads that are shorter then two feet are unacceptable, UNLESS they are made of glass.
4. That said, Mardi Gras may have roots in pagan spring festivals that date back thousands of years. The ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia both included traditions of feasting and masquerades, which are components of the modern Mardi Gras festival, too.
3. Carnival is not Mardi Gras. It is the season. Mardi Gras is only one day.
2. Mardi Gras is a legal holiday in Louisiana.
1. Many items may be thrown during a parade, however A Zulu coconut is probably the highest prized throw in Mardi Gras. They are hand painted coconuts and if you’re lucky enough to get one you get bragging rights.