Mardi Gras is the last day of carnival. It is also the day before Ash Wednesday which begins the Christian season of Lent.
When is Mardi Gras celebrated?
Mardi Gras occurs the day before Ash Wednesday. Because Ash Wednesday moves with Easter, the date for Mardi Gras moves as well. Here are some Mardi Gras dates:
- February 21, 2012
- February 12, 2013
- March 4, 2014
- February 17, 2015
- February 9, 2016
- February 28, 2017
- February 13, 2018
- March 5, 2019
Mardi Gras is celebrated throughout the world. In the United States, Mardi Gras is an official holiday in the state of Louisiana. It is celebrated by many people. To most people the day is just a good reason to have a big party, especially if they are in New Orleans. Some of the most notable celebrations are in French settled areas, especially in Louisiana and the city of New Orleans.
What do people do to celebrate?
In the United States, many cities celebrate the day with a Mardi Gras parade. The largest celebration takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. People dress up in bright and crazy looking costumes. The parades have all sorts of colorful floats and marching bands.
Another way people like to celebrate is with dances or balls. Some of these dances are called masquerade balls where people wear costumes and masks to hide their identity.
A popular event during the parade is when the people on the parade floats throw items into the crowd of observers. These items are usually strings of colorful beads or toy coins called doubloons.
Many people have or attend king cake parties. The king cake is a coffee cake with a hidden bead inside it. A popular tradition is that whoever finds the bead has to buy the next king cake or hold the king cake party for their friends the following year.
History of Mardi Gras
The history of Mardi Gras can be traced back to the Middle Ages. During these times people would eat heartily the night before they had to start fasting on Ash Wednesday. Other traditions sprang up during the Middle Ages including the serving of the king's cake in 12th century France. In early England, this day was a religious day where people confessed their sins in order to get ready for Lent.
Mardi Gras was introduced to Louisiana when French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville landed just south of today's New Orleans on March 2, 1699. Since it was the night before Mardi Gras, he named the landing area "Point du Mardi Gras". In 1703 the first Mardi Gras was celebrated at the small settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile.
In the 1730s Mardi Gras became a popular celebration in New Orleans. Originally it was celebrated with a large dance called a ball. The holiday became more popular over time. Parades began in the 1800s with the first "throwing" of items occurring around 1870. In 1875 the day became an official holiday in the state of Louisiana.
Fun Facts About Mardi Gras
- The term Mardi Gras can often refer to the two weeks leading up to the final day which is called Mardi Gras Day or Fat Tuesday.
- The Monday before is sometimes called Fat Monday or Lundi Gras.
- The celebration goes by different names throughout the world. Other names include Pancake Day, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, and the Tuesday of Carnival.
- Pancake Day comes from England where it was common tradition to use up all the eggs, milk, and butter in the kitchen prior to Ash Wednesday. These ingredients were often used to make pancakes.
- The official colors for the holiday are green, gold, and purple. Green stands for faith, gold stands for power, and purple stands for justice.
- Private clubs called krewes organize the events and parades in New Orleans.
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