Mardi Gras is February 21st this year, and with it comes music, parades, krewes, beads, and celebration! You can find a mask or create a costume and head to New Orleans, or you can look for splashes of the holiday to show up in towns like yours. It’s a big celebration, but what is it exactly and how did the whole thing get started?
The “Fat Tuesday” gala started a long time ago, actually way back in 1857. Mardi Gras marks the last day of the Carnival season, a period of rich feasting and frivolity which follows Epiphany and is the day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. It’s a floating holiday and the date of Mardi Gras varies slightly because it must fall 47 days before Easter Sunday.
The traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green have their roots in political and religious arenas. Purple stands for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. In 1872 some businessmen invented a King of the Carnival festivities named Rex and the first Rex selected the colors and the significance they hold today. A new Rex is chosen each year by the School of Design in New Orleans, the sponsors of the Rex parade. In the “city that care forgot,” the parade champions make sure that visitors and natives alike follow Rex who will always set their hearts to music with “If ever I cease to love.”
Here are some extra Mardi Gras fun facts:
• Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”
• Mardi Gras celebrations have their origins in the ancient Roman festival, Lupercalia. It is considered the last great indulgence before the 40-day fasting period of Lent.
• Mardi Gras migrated to the United States by way of many French influences, including French explorer Pierre le Moyne d’Iberville in the Louisiana territory in 1699.
• The first Mardi Gras parade in the United States was in 1837.
• The official colors of Mardi Gras: green (faith), purple justice), and gold (power).
• Krewe: a non-profit organization or club participating in a parade.
• The first “throw” (beads or small trinkets) happened in 1871 when a krewe member dressed up as Santa Claus and tossed gifts to parade revelers.
So, how are you going to celebrate Mardi Gras? Try making a famous King Cake, decorating fun masks, or throw a party!