The festival seasons opens on 6th January with private masked balls, then a fortnight before Tuesday it continues with parades organized by a certain club, ending with Mardi Gras parade on Tuesday.
Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rituals. It is also known as “Carnival”, and it is celebrated in many countries around the world. Mainly in those countries with large Roman Catholic population. It is celebrated the day before the religious season of Lent begins. Brazil, Venice and New Orleans are hosts play to some of the holiday’s most famous public festivities, drawing thousands of tourists every year.
Origins of Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the Roman festivals of Saturnalia. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to include these popular local traditions into the new faith. It was an easier task than stop them altogether. As a result Mardi Gras season became an introductin to Lent – the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England.
Traditionally, in the days before Lent, merrymakers would eat as much meat, eggs, milk and cheese that they had in their homes, preparing for several weeks of eating only fish and fasting. In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” The word “carnival,” may also derive from this vegetarian – unfriendly custom: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat.
Many historians believe that the first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3rd 1699, when the French explorers Iberville and Bienville landed in what is now Louisiana, just south of New Orleans. They held a small celebration and called the place “Point du Mardi Gras”. In years that followed, New Orleans and other French settlements began marking the holiday with street parties, masked balls and dinners. When the Spanish took control of New Orleans they put a stop on these rituals, and the bans remained in force until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.
On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students dressed in colorful costumes danced through the streets of New Orleans doing the things they had seen while visiting Paris. Ten years later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place, a tradition that continues to this day.
In 1872 purple, gold and green were established as the iconic Mardi Gras colors. Other lasting customs include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake.
Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday.
Marti Gras in New Orleans
Mardi Gras Around the World
Across the world similar festivals take place in many countries with Roman Catholic population. The most famous are: Brazil’s Carnival in Rio, and in Italy the Venice’s Carnevale, which dates back to the 13th century and is famous for its masquerade balls. Known as Karneval, Fastnacht or Fasching, the German celebration includes parades, costume balls and a tradition that empowers women to cut off men’s ties. For Denmark’s Fastevlan, children dress up and gather candy in a similar manner to Halloween although the parallel ends when they ritually flog their parents on Easter Sunday morning.
King cake is a ring-shaped cake, with cinnamon, coverd with coloured sugar, with a small plastic baby inside. Who gets the baby gets to host the Marti Gras party next year.
King Cake Recipe
3 cups flour 1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup margarine 4 teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup sugar 1 egg
Dissolve yeast in water. Add milk and sugar, salt, egg, margarine, and half the flour. Mix until smooth. Add the rest of the flour and knead. Place in a greased bowl and cover. Allow it to rise. Divide the dough into three parts, roll it into tubes and braid. Make a wide ring of the braid, Sprinkle with Mardi Gras colored sugar (yellow, purple, green). Insert a plastic baby Jesus or a bean. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Enjoy!
This work by EnglishOŠAca is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.