Mardi Gras
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Mardi Gras

In New Orleans carnival season begins after Epiphany or Twelfth Night and is on January 6. It has also been traditionally apart of the Winter social season.

Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years.

Lupercalia, a festival held in the middle of February, was believed to bring health and fertility to the city and get rid of all evil spirits. The Catholic Church felt it was a pagan affair and had tried unsuccessfully to abolish the festival. So they made the festival a celebration of the coming of Lent.

Lent is 40 days long where meat was abstained from and only fish eaten. Without refrigeration meat needed to be eaten the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, it became the day of feasting, or in French Mardi Gras meaning Fat Tuesday.

On March, 3, 1699 a French explorer, Sieur de’ La Salle started exploring the Mississippi River setting up camp just 60 miles south of where New Orleans is today. In honor of the Mardi Gras celebration in Paris he declared the site ‘Pointe du Mardi Gras’, or Point of Mardi Gras.

When governor Marquis de Vaudreuil started having elegant society balls Mardi Gras developed into a grand tradition. In 1837 masked and costumed revelers in carriages paraded the streets and the first Mardi Gras was documented.

In 1857 a secret society of New Orleans businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized a torch lit Mardi Gras procession with rolling floats and marching bands setting the tone for futures celebrations in the city. Krewes have remained a fixture of the carnival scene in Louisiana. Other lasting costumes include masks, beads and trinkets, eating King cakes and decorating floats.

In New Orleans carnival season begins after Epiphany or Twelfth Night and is on January 6. It has also been traditionally apart of the Winter social season. Plenty of masked balls, parades, and king cake parties. At one time young women’s coming out parties or detante parties were scheduled during this time.

Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday. In other parts of the country, such as Alabama and Mississippi, have elaborate carnival festivals and each region has its own events and traditions.

Pre-lenton festivals take place in countries with significant Roman Catholic populations. In Canada Quebec City hosts the giant Quebec Winter Carnival. In Denmark the children gather candy much like Halloween in the US. In Venice, Italy there is the famous Carnevale in which they have masquerade balls that date back to the 13th century.

This year the Mardi Gras will be held on March 8. And in 2012 it will be on February 12.

 

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