July 21, 2017

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”.  The name comes from the ancient custom of parading a fat ox through Paris on this day.  The ox was to remind the people that they were not allowed to eat meat during Lent.  Lent runs from Ash Wednesday thru Easter Sunday.

Mardi Gras moves.  It can be anywhere between February 3rd and March 9th.  The date depends on when Easter falls.

French people who came to the United States brought the custom of Mardi Gras with them.  The most famous festival in the US (and perhaps the world) is at New Orleans in Louisiana *wistful sigh*– I’ve always wanted to go, not necessarily for Mardi Gras, but just to see it.

But Mardi Gras parades happen throughout the world.  Biloxi in Mississipi, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Nice in France, Binche in Belgiun and Viareggio in Italy are just a few examples.

The Tuesday that Mardi Gras falls on is also known as Shrove Tuesday.  The name comes from the custom of confessing on the day before lent.  Shrove means “to be forgiven one’s sins.”

Mardi Gras Customs:

In Southern Italy, people dress up in costumes and put on an ancient play during Mardi Gras

In Rio de Jeneiro, people dance in the streets.

In Nice, France people wear giant masks in the Mardi Gras parade (it looks like a bunch of walking heads with tiny bodies).

In Binche, Belgium people dress in colorful clown costumes (the clowns are called gilles) The clowns wear bunches of ostrich feathers on their heads and dance in the streets.  They carry baskets of oranges which they throw to the watching crowds.

For most of you, Mardi Gras customs are likely of the New Orleans variety.  During the parade, everyone dresses up in costumes.  Trinkets, especially beads and doubloons, are tossed to the crowds from the parade floats.  The Mardi Gras colors are purple, green and gold.

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