What Is Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana?

Few things are as synonymous with New Orleans as Mardi Gras. Learn about the unique and colorful history of this fun Carnival and the meaning behind its worldwide celebrations! 

Mardi Gras is one of the most popular festivals in the US. Most people are familiar with colored beads, masks, and costumes. The parades also make up this popular event. However, many people aren’t aware of the history behind this festival and the Carnival season. To learn more about its grand traditions and other Carnival activities, look no further. Be sure to share your own tips with other festivalgoers on your favorite family app!

What Is the Holiday Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is actually a Catholic holiday that occurs before the start of Lent, a period when many Catholics fast. Prior to this fasting period, the Carnival celebration has people take to the streets in costume and mask to celebrate. In fact, “Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday“, referring to the last day of feasting before fasting. Another name for this particular day is Shrove Tuesday.

However, Mardi Gras 2020 is one of the events that has made the city of New Orleans, Louisiana famous! But, many people don’t realize that people around the world celebrate this particular festival. While the largest North American festival occurs in New Orleans, Carnival is also celebrated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Venice, Italy.

When Is Carnival Celebrated?

Mardi Gras New Orleans occurs for approximately 6 weeks each year and always begins on the date of January 6th. On the one hand, this day represents the night closing the Twelve Days of Christmas and on the other hand celebrating Epiphany.

The festivities that make up Carnival occur throughout the period on weekdays and weekends. This includes everything from parades and floats to street parties and costumes. Each year, the seasons ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. This marks the start of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter begins. This year, the Mardi Gras date falls on February 25, 2020.  

What Are the Origins of Mardi Gras?

The activities that make up this event may seem homegrown to many people in North America. However, the tradition that makes up this period dates back to medieval Europe. While France celebrated ‘Boeuf Gras’, a fat ox, as a typical Carnival symbol, it was the French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville that brought the tradition to New Orleans.

The explorers landed on the eve of Fat Tuesday and named the spot ‘Pointe du Mardi Gras’. In 1702, Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America’s first incarnation of this festival.

What Is the History of Mardi Gras?

After its initial celebration in 1703, many traditions evolved throughout the years to make Mardi Gras 2020 what it is.  

In 1710, Boeuf Gras Society started and paraded from 1711 to 1861. Their Carnival events included a large bull’s head to represent the feast that 16 men pushed around.

In 1718, New Orleans, Louisiana was established. In the 1740s, Marquis de Vaudreuil threw balls that were a model for the celebration that would come to be. Share more interesting facts on your favorite family app!

By 1830, NOLA had processions in the street that included floats, costumes, and horseback riders. There were a variety of different krewes that staged the event, bringing different atmospheres and aesthetics with them.

In 1872, the King of Carnival introduced the colors of purple, green, and gold as the festival’s official colors. Soon after, the Mardi Gras parade floats began to be constructed entirely in New Orleans.

The celebrations that make up Mardi Gras have certainly changed over the years. But the same enthusiasm and excitement takes over the streets each year with floats, costumes, and fun! Have you ever been to this popular event? Share your stories with us in our comments. Whether you’re thinking of attending the New Orleans festival or Carnival Brazil celebrations in Rio, prepare for an epic event!

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