Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, alludes to functions of the Carnival festivity, starting on or after the Christian galas of the Epiphany and coming full circle on the day preceding Ash Wednesday, which is known as Shrove Tuesday.
The first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was held in 1838.
Mardi Gras began as an extravagant celebration for Christians in Europe. It reached North America in the early 18th century.
The Mistick Krewe of Comus is credited with making New Orleans the most popular Mardi Gras destination in the United States when they introduced floats to the parade in 1857. Comus is the Greek God of Revelry.
Many countries celebrate Mardi Gras as the last day of the Carnival season.
Around 1.4 million people visit New Orleans during carnival season.
Other names for Mardi Gras include Martes de Carnaval (in Mexico), Karneval (Germany), J’Ouvert (Trinidad), Fastan (Sweden), and Martedi Grasso (Italy).
Carnival season in New Orleans officially kicks off every year on Twelfth Night (which marks the Epiphany) when a group called the Phunny Phorty Phellows rides down St. Charles in a streetcar throwing out the first beads.
A French Cajun phrase for Mardi Gras is ‘Laissez les bons temps rouler’, which means ‘Let the good times roll’.
Krewe of Rex, founded in 1872, is responsible for originating several Mardi Gras traditions including the official colors and giving out Spanish gold coins.
Some countries celebrate Mardi Gras as ‘Pancake Day’, and indulge in eating pancakes. Ireland, Australia, England, Canada and New Zealand celebrate Pancake Day.
There are over 70 parades held throughout the New Orleans metropolitan area during carnival season.
Purple, gold and green and the official colors of Mardi Gras. Purple is meant to signify justice, gold is meant to signify power and green signifies faith.
“Laissez les bon temps rouler” means “let the good times roll” in Cajun French, which seems appropriate.
The first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans took place in 1837.
New Orleans, Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Northshore doggies get their own parades.
The first floats in the parades in New Orleans Mardi Gras appeared in 1857.
Purple, gold, and green are the official Mardi Gras colors.
The clubs that hold parades or balls at Mardi Gras are called Krewes.
The color purple represents justice.
In 1872 the tradition of naming kings and queens began when the Russian grand duke visited New Orleans Mardi Gras and a royal reception was held for him. The grand duke’s royal colors were purple, gold and green, which became Mardi Gras’ official colors.
The gold color symbolizes power.
Millions of colored beaded necklaces are thrown from floats at Mardi Gras.
Green is used to represent faith.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005 it was believed that Mardi Gras would be cancelled the following year. It was decided that Mardi Gras would go on.
The Krewe of Rex also selected the theme song “If Ever I Cease to Love,” which has since been adopted as the anthem for Mardi Gras.
The French Quarter in New Orleans was mostly undamaged in Hurricane Katrina.
It’s believed that the bead-throwing tradition started in the 1880s when a man dressed as Santa became popular with the crowd for tossing them.
Masquerades and feasts are a big part of Mardi Gras. The ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia also featured feasts and masquerades.
The beads used to be made of glass but are now primarily made of plastic.
The first American city to hold a parade for Mardi Gras was Mobile, Alabama.
The city estimates around 25 million pounds of beads get thrown into the streets each year.
One of the biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S. is held in Galveston, Texas.
After clogged storm drains that caused excess flooding, the city cleared the drains of 45 million tons of beads!
In 1875 Louisiana named Mardi Gras a state holiday. Today is also a state holiday in Alabama and Florida.
Parade attendees request the trinkets by yelling the phrase “Throw me something mister!”
Rio de Janeiro hosts one of the world’s largest Mardi Gras celebrations in the world.
Although beads are the most common, many of the krewes offer up various trinkets to the crowd as they make their way down the street.
It is illegal to ride a Mardi Gras float in New Orleans if you’re not wearing a mask. This law came into effect to allow people to associate with anyone they wanted to, without social barriers.
One of the most coveted trinkets to catch is a golden coconut thrown during the Zulu parade.