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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  • 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 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 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 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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 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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  • 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 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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 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 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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