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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  • 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 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Why Do People Throw Beads During Mardi Gras Parades?

    Q: Why Do People Throw Beads During Mardi Gras Parades?

    A: The practice of throwing or handing out beads during Mardi Gras parades dates back to the 1880s. At this time, the beads were an extension of an earlier tradition of throwing treats such as candied nuts into crowds. The exact origins of this practice are unclear, though some historians believe it may be related to a celebratory pagan ritual in which milled grain was thrown as a way of celebrating one's survival of a harsh winter.
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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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  • 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 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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  • 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 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 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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