Mardi Gras

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In the same way that Christmas Eve is a part of the entire Christmas holiday, Mardi Gras is a part of the Carnival celebration. Carnival refers to a multi-day season that commemorates the period before Lent, while Mardi Gras is a single Tuesday within that period.The two terms are typically used interchangeably, though they technically are separate entities.

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  • How are Mardi Gras parade floats made?

    Q: How are Mardi Gras parade floats made?

    A: Depending on their complexity, Mardi Gras parade floats are made through a series of steps that involve design, foundation construction, frame building, sculpting figures on the float and finally adding decorative touches, such as paint and other finishing embellishments. In some cases, floats are built on preexisting chassis foundations that are already equipped to support the weight of a completed float in addition to being mechanically ready to be driven through a parade route.
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  • How many Mardi Gras parades take place in New Orleans?

    Q: How many Mardi Gras parades take place in New Orleans?

    A: The exact number of parades that take place in New Orleans during Mardi Gras may vary by year. According to the parade schedule published by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, there were about 90 parades scheduled over 15 days during the 2014 Carnival season, which begins on January 6 each year. On the official day of Mardi Gras, there were 12 parades scheduled to roll throughout the day, with the first beginning at 8 a.m.
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  • How long are the Mardi Gras parades?

    Q: How long are the Mardi Gras parades?

    A: Mardi Gras parade schedules tend to include start times for parades, but not end times, making it hard to predict exactly how long a parade will take. Factors that influence the duration of the parade include the length of the parade route, with longer routes taking longer to complete.
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  • What is a krewe?

    Q: What is a krewe?

    A: In the context of Mardi Gras celebrations, a krewe (pronounced 'crew') is an organization of people who are responsible for arranging events such as parades and balls during the Mardi Gras and Carnival season. The term is most commonly applied to such groups in the United States, particularly in New Orleans. Some of New Orleans' oldest and most famous krewes include the Krewe of Zulu, the Krewe of Rex, the Krewe of Endymion, the Mardi Gras Indians and the Krewe of Bacchus. These krewes are responsible for some of the biggest and most famous parades and events in New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebrations.
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  • Why is there a king of Mardi Gras and what does he do?

    Q: Why is there a king of Mardi Gras and what does he do?

    A: Though there technically is not a single king of Mardi Gras, the king of the Rex Krewe is known as the king of Carnival, a position that holds special significance. The Rex Krewe king of Carnival participates in the Rex parade and appears at the annual meeting of the courts event along with the krewe's queen. Some consider this event to be the formal end to New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebrations.
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  • Where is the largest Mardi Gras celebration?

    Q: Where is the largest Mardi Gras celebration?

    A: The annual Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, Louisiana, is often regarded as the largest and most famous celebration of that specific holiday within the pre-Lent period, with typically more than 1 million people attending the city's parades and festivities. In terms of worldwide celebrations, the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, may be the largest such festival on the planet. This celebration can involve more than 2 million people on each of the five days the Carnival celebration takes place after it begins on the Friday before Ash Wednesday. Both of these famous festivals involve loud celebrations and massive public parades.
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  • How much does it cost to be in a Mardi Gras krewe?

    Q: How much does it cost to be in a Mardi Gras krewe?

    A: Mardi Gras krewe membership costs vary by krewe and can range from less than $50 to thousands of dollars. The price of membership typically depends on the scope and popularity of the events the krewe puts on. For example, membership in the Zulu krewe, which holds a legendary parade on Mardi Gras Tuesday, can cost as much as $1,500, and other krewes may be even more exclusive both in terms of price and in terms of the gender, race and residency of their members.
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  • What is Shrove Tuesday?

    Q: What is Shrove Tuesday?

    A: Shrove Tuesday falls on the same day as Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, and is intended as a day of reflection and spiritual consideration before Lent. The word "shrove" comes from the archaic English word "shrive," which refers to the act of acknowledging a person's confessions and troubles and offering spiritual advice and reassurance of God's forgiving nature. In addition to also being known as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday may also be known as Pancake Tuesday thanks to the practice of making pancakes as a means of using up certain restricted ingredients, such as fat, sugar and eggs, prior to the beginning of Lent.
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  • Why do people eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?

    Q: Why do people eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?

    A: Pancakes are a traditional food on Shrove Tuesday, which is also known as Pancake Tuesday, because pancakes can be made with ingredients that were traditionally forbidden during Lent, including fat, sugar and eggs. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, and, like Mardi Gras, this day is designed to prepare Catholics and Christians for the Lenten season of fasting that starts on Ash Wednesday.
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  • Why do people wear masks during Mardi Gras?

    Q: Why do people wear masks during Mardi Gras?

    A: People wear masks during Mardi Gras to add excitement to their festivities. According to the International Business Times, Mardi Gras is an opportunity for people to abandon social constraint by donning a mask to celebrate Fat Tuesday.
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  • What does Carnival celebrate?

    Q: What does Carnival celebrate?

    A: Carnival celebrates all sorts of merriments and enjoyments that might be denied in the Lenten season that follows. Carnival festivities historically emphasized feasting, social equality and even rule-breaking, before entering into a Lenten routine of fasting and penitential abstinence.
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  • Do U.S. cities other than New Orleans have Mardi Gras celebrations?

    Q: Do U.S. cities other than New Orleans have Mardi Gras celebrations?

    A: While the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration may be the most famous in the country, there are many other cities in the United States that celebrate Mardi Gras, including Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida. These Mardi Gras celebrations are among the oldest in the country, some of which may even predate the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans.
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  • What does "Mardi Gras" mean?

    Q: What does "Mardi Gras" mean?

    A: In French, the word "Mardi" means "Tuesday," and the word "gras" means "fat," meaning that Mardi Gras translates to English as "Fat Tuesday." The name comes from the practice of preparing for the start of a period of fasting on Ash Wednesday, which immediately follows Mardi Gras. This preparation may involve eating rich foods and using up ingredients like fat, eggs and dairy, which may not be allowed during Lent.
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  • Why do people celebrate Mardi Gras?

    Q: Why do people celebrate Mardi Gras?

    A: People celebrate Mardi Gras for a variety of reasons that are typically motivated by their religious beliefs. For those who take part in a strict adherence to Lent, Mardi Gras is a way of enjoying excessive quantities of food and drink prior to a period of fasting and denial, with the idea being that the days of excess may make the period of denial easier to tolerate. Lent is a time of fasting and personal denial that is intended to prepare Christians for Easter, which is one of the most important holidays in this religious tradition.
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  • Who are the Twelfth Night Revelers of Mardi Gras?

    Q: Who are the Twelfth Night Revelers of Mardi Gras?

    A: The Twelfth Night Revelers are a New Orleans Mardi Gras organization, or krewe, that holds an annual masquerade ball on January 6, which is also known as Twelfth Night, to mark the official beginning of the Carnival season. This is the second oldest krewe in New Orleans, having made its debut with a parade in 1870; this parade was the first known instance of the practice of throws, or trinkets such as beads and coins, being thrown to the parade audience. In 1876, The Twelfth Night Revelers became the first krewe to focus solely on throwing a dance, or ball, rather than putting on parades and hosting other celebrations.
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  • What is a Mardi Gras king cake?

    Q: What is a Mardi Gras king cake?

    A: The king cake is a traditional dessert associated with Mardi Gras or Carnival; the cake takes its name from the Bible story of the Three Kings, who met the baby Jesus in an event now commemorated with the celebration of Epiphany. According to the Manny Randazzo bakery in New Orleans, which has been making king cakes for Mardi Gras since 1965, the cake is a mix between an American coffee cake and a French pastry. These cakes may take different forms in different countries and can be round or ovoid in shape, typically with a hollow center, and, in the United States, are often decorated with white icing or glaze and colored decorations in the New Orleans' Mardi Gras colors of green, gold and purple.
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  • Where did Mardi Gras originate?

    Q: Where did Mardi Gras originate?

    A: Though it is now a Christian and Catholic holiday, the exact origins of the celebration of the Carnival season may date back to a pre-Christian era in Ancient Greece or Rome, when pagan seasonal celebrations at this time of year were commonplace. The celebration of the specific Mardi Gras holiday as a Christian holiday may date back to medieval Europe during the Roman Catholic era, when the pagan festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia were likely repurposed for a new religious purpose. The process of converting a pre-existing holiday for new religious ideology was likely easier than simply banning the pagan festivals outright.
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  • What is a Zulu Coconut?

    Q: What is a Zulu Coconut?

    A: The Zulu coconut is a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade 'throw' handed out by the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club krewe. This throw is an actual coconut that has been specially decorated by the members of the Zulu krewe. Because the coconuts are heavy, they are usually handed out rather than thrown into crowds.
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  • Is there a queen of Mardi Gras?

    Q: Is there a queen of Mardi Gras?

    A: There tends to be multiple women who are given the title of 'queen' during Mardi Gras, including those who are appointed to the royal court of a specific parade krewe. However, the queen of the Rex Krewe is known as the Queen of Carnival, and some people believe that the woman upon whom this title is bestowed is the true queen of Mardi Gras.
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  • What was the first Mardi Gras krewe?

    Q: What was the first Mardi Gras krewe?

    A: In 1857, the Mistick Krewe of Comus became the first official Mardi Gras organization in New Orleans, setting the stage for generations of krewes to come and, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, even preventing Mardi Gras from becoming a mere violent street party. Though the original krewe no longer parades, the Comus organization is still active, producing a royal court each year.
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  • What item was originally hidden in a king cake?

    Q: What item was originally hidden in a king cake?

    A: While modern versions typically include a tiny plastic figurine of a baby, historical versions of the Mardi Gras king cake may have included coins, beans, peas or nuts. Whether a bean, such as a fava bean, or a plastic or porcelain figurine is used, the trinket is intended to represent the baby Jesus in commemoration of the holiday of Epiphany, which marks the day when the baby Jesus was presented to the Three Kings.
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