There is no other event in our country that more encapsulates all things art, music, food, costumes and celebration than New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. This year Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday – the last day of celebration before Lent) falls on February 28th and will no doubt prove to be the epitome of a cultural phenomenon for the Big Easy. With its history and traditions, it maintains itself as an honored and revered holiday; with its debauchery and its Bourbon Street peccadillos, it also maintains somewhat of a tainted and shameless persona too. Whatever your view – it’s truly a ‘must do’ at least once. One thing you can rely on is you will never experience anything else like it – from the Krewe parades to the king cakes to the jazz musicians in every alleyway and on every corner – it is so much sensory overload – you will be ready for Lent! Here are a few fun facts about this distinctively cultural holiday. And remember: laissez les bon temps rouler!
MARDI GRAS IS ALWAYS THE TUESDAY BEFORE ASH WEDNESDAY
Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French. With Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of Lent, a forty-day period of fasting before Easter, Mardi Gras is the “last hurrah” of sorts, with participants indulging in their favorite fatty foods and drinks before giving them up.
MARDI GRAS MARKS THE END OF CARNIVAL SEASON
Countries around the world celebrate Mardi Gras as the last day of Carnival season, which starts after Christmas, on January 6th, known as ‘Twelfth Night.’
THE OFFICIAL COLORS OF MARDI GRAS ARE PURPLE, GOLD AND GREEN
Purple signifies justice, gold means power and green stands for faith.
KING’S CAKE IS EATEN ALL THROUGHOUT CARNIVAL SEASON
King’s Cake (or three kings cake), is eaten throughout the world during carnival season. In the U.S., it is traditionally purple, green and gold, with a trinket baby Jesus inside. Whoever gets the baby Jesus is said to have good luck all year.
THE FIRST NEW ORLEANS MARDI GRAS PARADE WAS 177 YEARS AGO
New Orleans has been celebrating Fat Tuesday with parades since 1837. The first floats appeared in the parade in 1857.
PARADES ARE PLANNED BY ‘KREWES’
Krewes are organizations that put on a parade or a ball for Mardi Gras/Carnival. They are clubs of a sort, with dues ranging from $20 to thousands of dollars annually. Krewes are also responsible for selecting carnival royalty in New Orleans, such as ‘Rex,’ the king of Mardi Gras.
MASKS ARE REQUIRED BY LAW FOR FLOAT RIDERS
Yep, it’s illegal to ride on a float without a mask. The original purpose of the mask was to get rid of social constraints for the day, allowing people to mingle with whomever they chose.
BEADS HAVE BEEN A TRADITION SINCE THE EARLY 1900’s
Beads were first thrown by Santa during a parade in the early 1900’s. People also throw stuffed animals, toys and more.
MARDI GRAS IS A STATE HOLIDAY IN SOME PLACES
Fat Tuesday is an official state holiday in Alabama, (the home of the first Mardi Gras parade and second biggest current celebration), Florida and parts of Louisiana. Although it’s not a state holiday in Texas, Galveston is home to one of the biggest celebrations in the country.
For more Mardi Gras facts and to plan your trip, go to mardigrasneworleans.com.