Mardi Gras

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