February 21st Is Mardi Gras

It’s that time of year again! Mardi Gras!!

Literally translated from French, “Mardi Gras” means “Fat Tuesday” and falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The name originally comes from the tradition of parading an ox through the streets of Paris on this day as a way to remind people that they were not allowed to eat meat during Lent, with begins on Ash Wednesday and ends 40 days later on Easter Sunday.

More traditionally, Mardi Gras (formally known as “Shrove Tuesday”) is when Catholics enjoy one last night of eating rich and fatty foods before ritually fasting for the Lenten season.

Over the years, “Mardi Gras” has evolved to encompass all the activities related to the celebratory events of the period between the Epiphany (January 6th) and Ash Wednesday. The date of Mardi Gras moves and can land anywhere between February 3rd and March 9th, depending on when Easter is.

With parades, floats, music, crazy costumes, and great excitement, New Orleans, Louisiana plays host to perhaps the largest Mardi Gras celebration in America each year on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Everyone wears green, gold, and purple and participates in the fun. Even local business get into the celebratory spirit by locking their doors and closing off roads to cars so revelers can take to the streets.

In addition to the millions of decorated cups and toy coins known as “doubloons” thrown to parade-watchers, colorful beaded necklaces thrown from the floats to onlookers are a huge part of the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.

People have been known to do some pretty outrageous things to catch the most doubloons thrown; including dressing up as religious figures, placing children with baskets on ladders towering over the crowds, wearing elaborate costumes with bright colors and tons of feathers, and even taking off their clothes to garnish some attention from the throwers.

Fun Facts About Mardi Gras In New Orleans:

– In the early decades of the 19th century, masks were deemed illegal due to the abundant amount of raucous behavior committed by people hiding behind them.

– By dawn on Tuesday, people have already staked claim to the best spots along the parade routes, where they picnic and celebrate throughout the day.

– Marching bands, some of them founded more than a century ago, are a huge part of the parade revelry and kick of the city’s festivities by playing jazz music for the crowds before the more than 350 floats and 15,000 costumed parade participants take over the streets.

For the Mardi Gras New Orleans 2012 Schedule, visit:

mardi gras 2012 february 21

While New Orleans has been celebrating Mardi Gras since the French first settled there in the 1700s and is the most popular place to be in America on this day, Mardi Gras celebrations occur all over world and include a variety of customs.

– In Southern Italy, people dress up in costumes and put on an ancient play during Mardi Gras.

– In Rio de Jeneiro there is massive dancing in the streets.

– In Nice, France people wear giant masks in the Mardi Gras parade. It ends up looking like a walking heads with tiny bodies.

– In Binche, Belgium people dress in colorful clown costumes and are called ‘gilles.’ The gilles wear ostrich feathers on their heads while they dance in the streets and throw oranges to the crowds from baskets they carry.

Another tradition of Mardi Gras, besides the parades and partying, is the King Cake.

A King Cake, sometimes referred to as Three Kings Cake, is a type of cake associated with the pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras. It is baked in the shape of an circle with a hole in the middle (like a big donut) and heavily decorated with colors of gold, green, and purple, and often garnished with glitter and plastic beads.

Cooked inside the cake is a small trinket – usually a small plastic baby representing Baby Jesus – and tradition states that the person who is served the piece of cake with the trinket inside is to provide the King Cake at the next year’s Mardi Gras party.

King Cake parties in New Orleans can be traced back to the 18th century.


king cake mardi gras

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