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The History of Mardi Gras – LifeSavvy



"Masks," Mardi Gras parade visitors posing for a photo in 1
905. New Orleans Public Library

Think of Mardi Gras, and you'll probably think of wild drinking, glittering cheap beads, and university students who want letting go. But again, you could find the same things in every party town around the world. So what makes Mardi Gras special?

In fact, this annual celebration is about much more than drinks and pearls. Mardi Gras is actually a Christian holiday, with roots in older pagan traditions (just like many other Christian holidays). It marks the end of the carnival season, just before the fast season begins. And people all over the world celebrate it, although New Orleans is the most famous American location.

Where does this vacation come from and how does history influence modern celebrations? Before you put on those beads, let us delve into the fascinating story behind Mardi Gras.

Ancient Roman Roots

Ancient Roman celebrations were famous for being wild, and it is these wild celebrations that seem to have led to modern Mardi Gras. In particular, Saturnalia and Lupercalia (who may have also helped start Valentine's Day) have fueled the start of this tradition.

When Rome switched to Christianity, the ancient Roman festivities of spring and fertility continued, as a prelude to Lent 40 days fast. These pre-Lent festivities would eventually become Mardi Gras: therefore the holiday always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday (when Lent starts). And while the traditions of Christianity spread throughout the world, so did Mardi Gras.

If you ever have Mardi Gras & # 39; Fat Tuesday & # 39; is a direct translation: & # 39; Mardi Gras & # 39; is just French for & # 39; Fat Tuesday & # 39 ;. This name refers to the last chance to party before the fast starts on Ash Wednesday. Of course, people nowadays often decide for themselves what to give up for Lent (if there is something), but historically the Lent meant giving up food such as meat, butter and eggs.

In fact, even the word & # 39; carnival & # 39; Refers to this tradition: & # 39; carnem & # 39; means & # 39; meat & # 39; in Latin and & # 39; carnelevarium & # 39; was a medieval word for giving up meat. Eventually the word & # 39; carnival & # 39 ;.

Carnival season refers to the weeks prior to Mardi Gras: Carnival begins on January 6 and ends on Fat Tuesday. In the performances and festivities that characterize carnival, it is easy to imagine the influence of ancient Roman festivals.

Of course, as with many modern holidays with old roots, scientists are still discussing whether or not Carnival and Mardi Gras came directly from ancient Roman festivals and festivities. Yet there is no doubt that they share some similarities. And, as a Christian holiday, the Mardi Gras tradition became extremely popular – even among non-Christians.

Mardi Gras in the US

  A wood carving from 1867 with a Mardi Gras night parade by a secret society.
James Earl Taylor / Public Domain

It is easy to see why Mardi Gras became such a popular party. Who does not like an excuse to party – especially if you are facing a long phase of religious fasting?

That is why in 1699 two French men landed in the neighborhood of present-day New Orleans and the first American Mardi held Grass celebration because you don't want to miss the fun French tradition. But Mardi Gras celebrations were actually officially established in Mobile, Alabama before they really connected to New Orleans. Today, many people claim that Mobile actually has the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the US.

New Orleans, however, claims the first Mardi Gras parade. This first parade was an attempt by the student in 1827: the students brought the costumes and street dances they had seen in Paris to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. In 1837 the parade was an official tradition.

And in 1857, a secret society known as the Mistick Krewe of Comus floats and marching bands added to the parades, reflecting the tradition of & # 39; krewes & # 39; Whether private organizations were kicked off the carnival parades take place – a parade of the Mistick Krewe is depicted in the carvings above. The purple, gold and green colors of one famous krewe finally came entirely for Mardi Gras.

Over time, riders on the floaters of the krewes began to throw beads, coins and other trinkets at viewers – and contrary to popular belief, there is still no need to show a skin to Mardi Gras beads.

The "king cake" has also become a staple of modern Mardi Gras traditions. This famous pastry seems to have its own roots: Rome & # 39; s Saturnalia festivities include baking beans into cakes as a harvest celebration. The person who found the bean in the cake became & # 39; king & # 39; for that day. The current version of kingcake includes a circular cake (such as a crown) with a plastic baby to represent the baby that Jesus has baked inside. The person who finds the baby receives honor and responsibilities that are appropriate for a king (or queen), such as riding a parade float or organizing a party.

A worldwide celebration

While the New Orleans Mardi Gras is perhaps the most famous of them all, the Carnival and Mardi Gras tradition is huge all over the world. You may have heard of the famous carnival celebrations in places such as Brazil, Haiti or Trinidad and Tobago; or the carnival masquerade balls in Venice. Although the exact traditions of these festivities differ depending on where you are, they are all about life before Lent, and they all end with Mardi Gras.

Of course you don't have to be a Christian or participate in Lent to enjoy the historic, cultural Mardi Gras festivities. But knowing this history helps give context a little more context. Mardi Gras is not about partying on any Tuesday – it's about taking the last chance to get big before Lent fasting and praying.

Mardi Gras can drink and involve debauchery, but it is just as good a family vacation as anything else. Whether you take photos with your friends or share king cake with your family, there are many ways to celebrate Mardi Gras that will brighten up this late winter season.


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