Read some interesting facts about Mardi Gras
What is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras facts tell the story of a celebration that has deep historical roots. Beginning during pagan celebrations, the festival has evolved into a crazy, fun-filled event that has to be seen to be believed. With balls, parades, masks and indulgence in food and drink, Mardi Gras is one of the world’s truly unique holidays.
It is a Catholic holiday before Lent. Traditions of Mardi gras include costumes, parades and indulgence. It is annually held 47 days before Easter. The most popula foods of the holiday are King cakes, gumbo, beans and rice.
Mardi Gras Vocabulary
“Fat Tuesday” is the direct translation of the words “mardi gras” in French. It’s the Tuesday before Lent begins (see below) and the day when religious people celebrate before 40 days of more restrained living. For non-religious people, it’s a great excuse for a mid-week party and parade!
Lent is the Catholic tradition of giving up something you love for 40 days. It begins on Wednesday after Mardi Gras.
To give (something) up
This phrasal verb means “to stop enjoying/doing something.” Here are some examples of things people give up: smoking, drinking soda/sugary drinks, eating sweets. For lent, people give up something they love or something that isn’t good for them.
A parade is an event where people, marching bands, and decorated cars or floats slowly make their way down public streets.
Floats are large, moving stages that are decorated beautifully. These floats are used in parades.
In Mardi Gras, the Venetian-style masks are a common decoration.
“Let the good times roll”
This expression is the motto of Mardi Gras. It comes from the French expression “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”
A king cake is the traditional cake eaten for Mardi Gras. A small trinket is placed inside the cake, and whoever finds the trinket in their slice of cake is either considered lucky . . . or is the person who has special responsibilities during the day. The traditions vary from family to family!
This word, commonly used in New Orleans, means “group of people on the float.”
The “throws” are the things that the krewe throws from the float, such as candy or beads.
Costumes are clothing that are outrageous, colorful, or in the form of a famous person. In the U.S., we wear costumes for Halloween . . . and sometimes for Mardi Gras!
To dress up
This phrasal verb means “to wear a costume.”
Beads are small, (usually round) pieces of plastic that are joined together to make a necklace.
Pagan Oigins of Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras facts reveal that the celebration may have its roots in the 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 main components of the modern Mardi Gras festivities that we know today. Other popular Mardi Gras practices include dancing, parades and sports competitions. Many treat it as a day on which to indulge in alcohol as well. It is often considered the last day to indulge in guilty pleasures as it is the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the season of Lent.
Mardi Gras, a Holiday before Lent
Mardi Gras only became a holiday in 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII placed it on his Gregorian calendar on the day before Ash Wednesday. The holiday arrived in North America in the late 17th century with the LeMoyne brothers. They had come to defend France’s claim on Louisiana, and introduced the celebration to the locals in 1699 with a party held on the Mississippi River.
The First Mardi Gras Location
Thousands of tourists flock to New Orleans every year for their Mardi Gras celebrations, but Mardi Gras facts reveal that this was not the location of the first recorded festival in the United States. The original Mardi Gras began in the city of Mobile, Alabama in 1703. New Orleans would not be founded for another 15 years after this time. The festival began as a French Catholic tradition, and is now widely celebrated throughout the city by many inhabitants, regardless of their religious affiliations. Most schools, and some businesses, even shut down during the Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile.
One of the most well-known traditions of Mardi Gras is the consumption of king cakes. A king cake resembles a coffee cake rather than a traditional cake, and is made with hand-braided dough that is topped with cinnamon and sugar. It is usually topped with icing and sugar in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. The king cake is believed to have originated in France around the 12th century. King cakes also have a fun surprise: a plastic baby is baked into the cake. Whoever finds the baby in their piece of cake is then responsible for baking the king cake for the next party (several are held during the Mardi Gras season).
Masks Are Required
One of the more surprising Mardi Gras facts tells us that it is illegal to ride on a float without wearing a mask during the celebration. The original purpose of the mask was to rid society of social constraints for a day, allowing different classes and groups to mingle freely throughout the celebrations.
Mardi Gras Colors
The main colors that you will see during Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold. Many decorations contain these colors, including the infamous beads that are thrown into crowds. It is said that these colors are meant to represent different characteristics. Green symbolizes faith, while purple represents justice. Gold indicates power. While the colors go far back into Mardi Gras history, beads are still fairly new to the festival. They didn’t become popular until the 1920s, when one parade threw inexpensive handmade glass necklaces into the crowd.
The Date of Mardi Gras
Looking back on Mardi Gras facts reveals that the date is different every year. This is because it is related to Easter, which also changes every year. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21, or the first day of spring. Mardi Gras is usually held 47 days before Easter. The range of Mardi Gras dates is February 3 through March 9. These specific dates are important because they rarely are included in the Mardi Gras celebration, with it only falling on the first and last dates of this timeframe before Easter once every 100 to 150 years.
King and Queen of the Carnival
Mardi Gras facts tell us about a Rex, or a King of the Carnival. This tradition began in New Orleans in 1872. Every year, the city chooses a new Rex. This is usually someone well-known in New Orleans, and they receive the symbolic key to the city. The first King of Mardi Gras was Russian Grand Duke Romanoff, who was visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras. The city wanted him to feel welcome, and came up with the idea of crowning him for the festivities. There is also a Queen of the Carnival. Tradition dictates that the King will blow her a kiss during his parade.
Mardi Gras Around the World
Plenty of countries celebrate Mardi Gras. While it is a Catholic holiday traditionally, many have embraced the festival despite their differing religious beliefs. In Australia, there is a Mardi Gras festival that started as an attempt to urge the public to accept homosexuality. In Belgium, Mardi Gras is one of the most important celebration days of the year. There is plenty of dancing and celebrating throughout the city. In Brazil, nearly 70% of tourism takes place during Mardi Gras. The main festival and parade attracts nearly two million people. Italy takes their Mardi Gras celebrations very seriously, including hosting a Battle Of Oranges, an event that can be traced back to medieval times. Italy is the birthplace of the carnival celebration.
Brief Mardi Gras Facts
- Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, is also known as Shrove Tuesday.
- Mardi Gras Day is the last day of Carnival season.
- Carnival is celebrated in countries with large Roman Catholic populations. It begins on January 6th, the twelfth day after Christmas, called Epiphany.
- Carnivals include balls, parties and parades with floats and costumed dancers.
- The colors of Mardi Gras are purple (justice), gold (power) and green (faith).
- Social clubs called “Krewes” organize the parades, and host balls and parties.
- Parades feature floats, marching bands, and a king and queen who lead the parade.
- Beads and coins called doubloons are thrown from the floats to the spectators.
- Mardi Gras is a state holiday in Alabama, Florida and eight parishes in Louisiana.
- Typical attendance for Mardi Gras in New Orleans is about 1.4 million.
- The first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was in 1837.
- Floats appeared in the parades for the first time in 1857.
- Festivities have been canceled 13 times before, most often during war-time.
- Mobile, Alabama, was the first place in the United States to celebrate Mardi Gras, and now holds the second largest celebration after New Orleans.
Tell some Mardi Gras facts
- How is Mardi Gras celebrated?
- What is the significance of this holiday?
- What is its origin?