It’s coming up soon – Fat Tuesday – the Mardi Gras Party! There will be a parade, a whole lot of costumes, great food and a ton of fun taking place in New Orleans. What else is Mardi Gras? It is cultural and religious and interesting for all of us who enjoy learning about our culture – the who, the what and the why of human beings! The more we know about each other, the more we understand, appreciate and respect each other.
Let’s get into it. From Google we see that Mardi Gras 2024 falls on Tuesday, February 13, 2024. That’s because the date of Easter is tied to the moon (it’s always the first Sunday after the full moon that follows the spring equinox) and Mardi Gras is tied to Easter.
Mardi Gras and Easter
For the millions of people celebrating Easter, there is a Lenten season that precedes the three-day Easter celebration. The Lenten season is a 40 day season when the people fast and pray and give alms to the poor. It begins on Ash Wednesday, which is February 14th this year. The Mardi Gras celebrations take place on the Tuesday before fasting begins, which is the 13th.
Fat Tuesday is the final day of partying prior to the Lenten fast. It’s also called Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday and Carnival Tuesday depending on the location. On this day we’ll see the parades and parties and indulgence in food. The words ‘mardi gras’ actually is French for Fat Tuesday. So, in essence, we are going to talk about the party that comes before the period of fasting for people who practice the Christian religion, especially the Roman Catholic practices.
Mardi Gras History
We’re not going to go way back through the centuries. That is a long and interesting story and we will give readers the [LINK] to the full article. Here’s just a little taste: “The earliest reference to Mardi Gras “Carnival” appears in a 1781 report to the Spanish colonial governing body. That year, the Perseverance Benevolent & Mutual Aid Association was the first of hundreds of clubs and carnival organizations formed in New Orleans. By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras. Dazzling gaslight torches, or “flambeaux,” lit the way for the krewe’s members and lent each event an exciting air of romance and festivity.”
What to do at Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is a big holiday in New Orleans, full of excitement. People who come to celebrate wear costumes or at least they dress in purple, green and gold, and they wear the long necklaces (beads) that are tossed to them from the celebrants on the floats. Mardi Gras is people having fun together: crazy costumes, lots of families, locals and visitors sitting on the ground, playing music, eating great food, watching the amazing parade performances. On Mardi Gras day, the majority of non-essential businesses are shut down because of the celebration.
What Google says: “The South unequivocally owns Mardi Gras. Between our over-the-top festivities in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, everyone knows that if you want to properly celebrate Fat Tuesday, it’s got to be in the South.”
Something unique to this celebration is the King Cake, which is a colorful pound cake, with gold, green and purple frosting, in which a little trinket is placed. Here’s a bit from Google: “The colors of the icing (and the royal colors of Mardi Gras) have a deeper meaning. Gold represents power, green is associated with faith, and purple illustrates justice.”
Who gets the slice of cake with the trinket? “The common denominator between all of these cakes is that they all have a small trinket or figurine — such as a bean, a coin, a nut, or a tiny baby figurine — hidden inside. Whoever finds the trinket in their slice of cake gets to be “king” for a day and is also said to have good luck.”
What Else? Mardi Gras Indians
We like to give our readers information they might not find elsewhere because there is much to learn when it comes to culture and identity. The more we learn, the more we appreciate everyone’s journey. In that spirit we’re going to offer a few paragraphs about the Mardi Gras Indians, and then offer a link to the full, and very interesting article.
“Mardi Gras is full of secrets, and the Mardi Gras Indians are as much a part of that secrecy as any other carnival organization. Their parade dates, times and routes are never published in advance, although they do tend to gather in the same areas every year.
“The Mardi Gras Indians are comprised, in large part, of the African-American communities of New Orleans’s inner city. While these Indians have paraded for well over a century, their parade is perhaps the least recognized Mardi Gras tradition.
“’Mardi Gras Indians–the parade most white people don’t see. The ceremonial procession is loose, the parade is not scheduled for a particular time or route…that is up to the Big Chief.” – Larry Bannock
“Traditional Mardi Gras organizations form a “krewe.” A krewe often names their parade after a particular Roman or Greek mythological hero or god. The ranking structure of a Mardi Gras Krewe is a parody of royalty: King, Queen, Dukes, Knights, and Captains, or some variation of that theme. Many of the more established krewes allow membership by invitation only.
“Few in the ghetto felt they could ever participate in the typical New Orleans parade. Historically, slavery and racism were at the root of this cultural separation. The black neighborhoods in New Orleans gradually developed their own style of celebrating Mardi Gras. Their krewes are named for imaginary Indian tribes according to the streets of their ward or gang.
“The Mardi Gras Indians named themselves after native Indians to pay them respect for their assistance in escaping the tyranny of slavery. It was often local Indians who accepted slaves into their society when they made a break for freedom. They have never forgotten this support.” [LINK] to the full article.
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We hope you have enjoyed this brief look into Mardi Gras. Be sure and tune in to the news on Tuesday the 13th to see the parade! There is much to learn about each other and learning history is always a good thing.
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