Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday” is a global holiday that celebrates the last day of the Carnival season and is considered one of the best days of the year to over-consume things that are probably not great for you. But it’s only once a year, so let the good times roll and enjoy the day along with much of the rest of the world!
Here are some fun facts to learn more about this amazing celebration:
- Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” and signifies the last day for Christians to eat rich, fatty foods before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.
- Historians say Mardi Gras’ roots lie in the ancient Roman festivals of Lupercalia and Saturnalia. Not unlike their modern descendent, these raucous festivals also involved feasting, drinking, and a good measure of debauchery.
- Rather than abolish the pagan holidays, the emerging Catholic church incorporated them into their belief system, allowing the popular time of excess to become the prelude to the penance of the Lenten season.
- Mardi Gras is celebrated all over the world in countries with large Catholic and Anglican populations. Brazil sees 70 percent of its tourists for its world-famous Carnival (Mardi Gras).
- The first Mardi Gras in what is now America took place in 1703 in the tiny French settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile.
- New Orleans had its first Mardi Gras parade in 1837, although the first floats didn’t arrive until 1857. The first reports of the now iconic Mardi Gras “throws” happened in 1870.
- The tradition of throwing beads began in the early 1900s, when Santa threw them from a float in New Orleans.
- The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple, gold, and green—signifying justice, power, and faith respectively.
- A special food to eat during Mardi Gras, stretching back to the Middle Ages, is the King Cake, a huge, ring-shaped cake with purple, green, and gold icing. Traditionally, a small plastic baby is hidden in the cake and the person who finds the baby is “king” for the day (and also has to buy next year’s King Cake)!
- It’s illegal to ride on a Mardi Gras float in New Orleans without a mask. Wearing a mask became traditional in the first years of Mardi Gras to encourage revelry and social interaction without boundaries. Today if you’re caught on a float without a mask, you risk a fine and expulsion from the parade.
No matter what traditions you observe, we hope you make the most of this fun holiday!
Laissez les bon temps roule!