Mardi Gras

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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 Lundi Gras?

    Q: What is Lundi Gras?

    A: Lundi Gras is part of New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebrations; in French, "Lundi" means "Monday," making this the Fat Monday predecessor of Fat Tuesday. The event can be seen as a kick-off to Mardi Gras celebrations, with a number of parades and events to help build anticipation for the big day.
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  • What other countries celebrate Mardi Gras?

    Q: What other countries celebrate Mardi Gras?

    A: Mardi Gras and Carnival are two similar holidays that celebrate the same period before Lent; these celebrations tend to take place in countries with cultural traditions influenced by Catholic and Christian religious practices. Some of these countries include Cape Verde, Trinidad and Tobago, Germany, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Russia, France and Brazil, which is home to the famous Rio Carnival.
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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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  • What do people eat on Fat Tuesday?

    Q: What do people eat on Fat Tuesday?

    A: On Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, people tend to indulge in sweet, rich and fatty foods as a last hurrah before the Lenten period of fasting that begins the next day on Ash Wednesday. Traditional pre-Lenten foods consumed on Fat Tuesday include pancakes, doughnuts and pastries. Different parts of the world may have different takes on these foods. For example, the Portuguese have a type of doughnut known as a malasada, which is a rounded ball of fried dough dusted with sugar, while the Polish make a type of doughnut known as a paczki, which is also rounded in shape but is filled with jelly and either glazed or dusted with powdered sugar.
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  • How did Fat Tuesday get its name?

    Q: How did Fat Tuesday get its name?

    A: Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras, gets its name from the practice of consuming rich foods and using up ingredients that may be restricted during the Lenten fasting period that immediately follows the holiday, including butter, oil, sugar and eggs. The term "fat" in this context has both literal and figurative meaning, referring both to the ingredients and quality of traditional foods consumed, which includes fried breads and pastries, and to the figurative quality of fatness being associated with consuming a lot of food in a self-indulgent rather than nourishing way.
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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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  • What is a Mardi Gras doubloon?

    Q: What is a Mardi Gras doubloon?

    A: Mardi Gras doubloons are large metallic coins with no real monetary value that are manufactured to be handed out during Mardi Gras parades and celebrations. The doubloon is one of the traditional 'throws' that are tossed to parade audiences and other revelers; other throws include beads and small trinkets.
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  • When is Mardi Gras?

    Q: When is Mardi Gras?

    A: Mardi Gras falls on the Tuesday immediately before Ash Wednesday, which is the official beginning of Lent. Mardi Gras is seen as a hedonistic celebration that will prepare revelers for the period of fasting and religious self control that follows during Lent.
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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 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Is Mardi Gras an official holiday?

    Q: Is Mardi Gras an official holiday?

    A: Mardi Gras is an official public holiday in certain places in the United States and across the globe. It is an official state holiday in Louisiana, and Brazil also has made the Carnival celebration an official public holiday.
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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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  • 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 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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  • What is Carnival?

    Q: What is Carnival?

    A: Carnival is a multi-day religious season that is intended as a period of celebration to precede the Lenten season; this is a Christian holiday season that is particularly important in areas with strong Catholic roots. The exact dates of the Carnival season may vary by country or region with some areas, such as Germany and the Netherlands, beginning the season as early as November 11th, and others beginning considerably later with the advent of Epiphany, which takes place 12 days after Christmas every year on January 6th.
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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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