It is the celebration known around the world that kick starts the Lenten season. Mardi Gras is most famous in Louisiana, so for those of us who live elsewhere, we may not know much more information about this celebration other than associations such as New Orleans, king cakes, and Krewes. Read on to learn more about this holiday and tradition!
What is Mardi Gras?
According to The Manual, Mardi Gras refers to “the ritualistic eating of generally unhealthy foods (hello, king cake) and meat before the traditional forty days of fasting that accompany the season of Lent in the Catholic faith begins.”[sic] This is why it is also known as “Fat Tuesday.”
The celebration of Mardi Gras dates back to medieval times in Europe. This tradition was common in Italy and France and then made its way to the New World with the French. The first Mardi Gras celebration in the United States was in 1699 when explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville landed about 60 miles south of the place that would become New Orleans on the eve of Mardi Gras. As a way to honor the holiday, he promptly named the place “Pointe du Mardi Gras.”
The Growth of Mardi Gras
The celebrations at Point du Mardi Gras began to grow and include parades, street parties, and high society balls. However, in the 1760s, the Spanish took over New Orleans and shut down what they viewed as depraved celebrations. These restrictions continued until the early 1800s, when the U.S. Government took over. The holiday was then recognized but not encouraged until 1837. In 1857, a group of six men established a secret group named the Mistick Krewe of Comus. The Krewe of Comus held a themed parade called “The Demon Actors in Milton’s Paradise Lost,” as well as a ball. The parade and ball helped to reinvigorate the holiday of Mardi Gras in the Big Easy.
So, where did the tradition of “parade throws” that we are used to seeing today originate? According to CNN Travel, it’s thought that this tradition originated in the 1920s with the city’s oldest social club, the Rex Krewe, whose colors of purple (justice), gold (power), and green (faith) have come to symbolize New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. The Krewe threw beaded necklaces and coins called doubloons stamped with krewe logos were thrown to the crowds.
Celebrate Mardi Gras at Home
The good news is you don’t need to leave the comfort of your home or head to New Orleans to get in the Mardi Gras spirit. Celebrate at home by eating a King Cake (most grocery stores sell them this time of year, or you can bake your own by following this recipe). Decorate your home in the traditional colors of green, gold, and purple, wear festive masks and beaded necklaces, and indulge in a classic Mardi Gras menu (red beans and rice, jambalaya, or gumbo, anyone?) Now that you know a bit more about this holiday’s history, we hope you appreciate the meaning behind Mardi Gras celebrations.
Whether it was a fundraising event, a birthday celebration, or a corporate outing, the Mardi Gras theme has been popular aboard Skyline Cruises with the masks, beads, and colors really adding fun and flair to the party. We look forward to celebrating all your special events with you again. Until then, we hope you enjoyed this article and the ideas we presented to make this year’s Mardi Gras celebration festive and fun. See you soon!