Mardi Gras

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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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  • Are Mardi Gras and Carnival the same celebration?

    Q: Are Mardi Gras and Carnival the same celebration?

    A: 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 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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  • 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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  • 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 happens at a traditional Mardi Gras ball?

    Q: What happens at a traditional Mardi Gras ball?

    A: Traditional Mardi Gras balls are formal dances that tend to be focused on dancing and other social activities. These dances may be exclusive in nature, and the parties can be themed costume or masquerade parties. Other activities, such as presenting and viewing the royal court of the krewe that hosts the ball, may also be part of the festivities.
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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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  • 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 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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  • Who are the Mardi Gras Indians?

    Q: Who are the Mardi Gras Indians?

    A: In the context of New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebrations, the term "Indians" refers to a traditional group of African Americans who dress up like Native Americans, wearing costumes that feature elaborate feather headdresses and other pieces adorned with beads and sequins. The Mardi Gras Indians are organized into groups that are referred to as tribes or gangs, some of which have roots that can be traced back to the late 19th century, when these groups first started organizing. Some of the suits worn by Mardi Gras Indians feature a blend of influences from Native American and African design traditions.
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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • When was the first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans?

    Q: When was the first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans?

    A: The modern-style Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans took place in 1857, with members of the newly formed Mistick Krewe of Comus presenting the city's first themed parade, which included floats and other features that are now recognizable as a Mardi Gras celebration. Prior to this, Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans had mostly been informal, and events such as a fatal balcony collapse in 1854 and a spate of violence by masked revelers in 1855 caused a local Creole newspaper to declare that the city's Mardi Gras celebrations were officially over. The 1857 parade resurrected New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebrations and helped to form traditions and set the tone for parades and events that are still part of the holiday festivities.
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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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  • 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 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 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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  • 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 do the colors of Mardi Gras symbolize?

    Q: What do the colors of Mardi Gras symbolize?

    A: The New Orleans Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green symbolize justice, power and faith, respectively. These are the colors that are most commonly associated with the famous Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, Louisiana, and may not be the colors most associated with this holiday in other parts of the world.
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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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