MARDI GRAS | Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Biggest Festivals In Louisiana • illuminaija
illuminaija

MARDI GRAS | Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Biggest Festivals In Louisiana

   
   

MARDI GRAS | Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Biggest Festivals In Louisiana

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the practice of the of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual Lenten sacrifices and fasting of the Lenten season.

MARDI GRAS | Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Biggest Festivals In Louisiana

It is one of the quintessential celebrations associated with New Orleans culture.

MARDI GRAS | Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Biggest Festivals In Louisiana

It refers to events of the Carnival celebration, beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is known as Shrove Tuesday.

The date of ‘Fat Tuesday’ changes from year to year based on when the Christian holiday Ash Wednesday, or the first day of Lent, falls.  

Origin

Some think Mardi Gras may be linked with the ancient Roman pagan celebrations of spring and fertility such as Saturnalia, which dates to 133–31 BC. 

This celebration honored the god of agriculture, Saturn. It was observed in mid-December, before the sowing of winter crops. 

   
   

MARDI GRAS | Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Biggest Festivals In Louisiana

It was a week-long festival when work and business came to a halt. Schools and courts of law closed, and the normal social patterns were suspended.

On the Julian calendar, which the Romans used at the time, the winter solstice fell on December 25. Hence, the celebration gradually became associated with Christmas.

Early Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans

The French established the city of New Orleans in 1718, and Mardi Gras had become ingrained in the city’s culture by the 1730s. However, the earliest instances of Mardi Gras in New Orleans looked vastly different compared to today.

The late 1830s saw the dawn of street processions that featured masked revelers pulled in carriages or on horseback and flambeaux, or bearers of gaslight torches that lit the way for night-time krewes. 

Any collection of Mardi Gras revelers is known as a “krewe,” and they specifically take part in parades and processions during carnival season. 

The first Mardi Gras krewe, the Mistick Krewe of Comus, formed in 1856 and became known for its eye-catching floats, masked balls and anonymity for krewe members.

MARDI GRAS | Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Biggest Festivals In Louisiana

The second Mardi Gras krewe, the Twelfth Night Revelers, formed in 1870 and was the first krewe to introduce Mardi Gras “throws.” 

In 1872, a group of local businessmen organized the first daytime parade, presided over by Rex, the “King of Carnival,” in honor of Russian Grand Duke Alexei Romanoff, who was visiting the city. 

In the grand duke’s honor, the businessmen adopted the Romanoff’s family colors – purple, green, and gold – as the official colors of Mardi Gras.

MARDI GRAS | Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Biggest Festivals In Louisiana

By 1873, Mardi Gras float construction had moved from France to New Orleans, and krewes began using floats as a way to express opinions and mock public officials and hot-button topics of the day. 

Mardi Gras became an official holiday with the signing of the “Mardi Gras Act” in Louisiana in 1875.

Mardi Gras krewes began organizing among various communities, such as the Tramps, the forerunner of the all-African Krewe of Zulu, which launched in 1909. 

The first all-female krewe, Les Mysterieuses, formed in 1896, and the Krewe of Iris, the oldest all-female krewe still rolling today, first appeared in 1917.

Other parades established themselves around particular neighborhoods, such as Carrollton, which first rolled in 1924 and continues today.

Costumes

MARDI GRAS | Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Biggest Festivals In Louisiana

Mardi Gras, as a celebration of life before the more-somber occasion of Ash Wednesday, nearly always involves the use of masks and costumes by its participants. 

In New Orleans, for example, these often take the shape of fairies, animals, people from myths, or various Medieval costumes as well as clowns and Indians (Native Americans).

MARDI GRAS | Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Biggest Festivals In Louisiana

   
   

However, many costumes today are simply elaborate creations of colored feathers and capes. 

Unlike Halloween costumery, Mardi Gras costumes are not usually associated with such things as zombies, mummies, bats, blood, and the like, though death may be a theme in some. 

MARDI GRAS | Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Biggest Festivals In Louisiana

   
   

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.