Mardi Gras is February 12th this year, and with it comes music, parades, krewes, beads, and celebration! You can find a mask, create a costume, head to New Orleans, or participate in colorful local events. It’s a big celebration, but what is it exactly and how did the whole thing get started?
“Fat Tuesday” 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 its date varies slightly because it must fall 47 days before Easter Sunday.
In 1856, a group of businessmen founded New Orleans’ first and oldest krewe, the Mistick Krewe of Comus and in 1857, held its first parade. Comus is the oldest continuously active Mardi Gras Organization and is responsible for starting a number of traditions that continue today including the use of floats in parades.
The traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green have their roots in political
and religious arenas. In 1872 the Rex Organization invented the King of the Carnival festivities and the first Rex selected the colors and the significance they hold today. A new king (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
- The first Mardi Gras parade in the United States was held in Mobile, Alabama
- The official colors of Mardi Gras are 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 1837 when a krewe member tossed small “gifts” to parade revelers.
So, how are you going to celebrate Mardi Gras? Try making a famous King Cake, decorating fun masks, throw a party or post a Mardi Gras postcard on your wall or email one to a friend!