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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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 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 celebrate Mardi Gras?

    Q: Why do people celebrate Mardi Gras?

    A: People celebrate Mardi Gras for a variety of reasons that are typically motivated by their religious beliefs. For those who take part in a strict adherence to Lent, Mardi Gras is a way of enjoying excessive quantities of food and drink prior to a period of fasting and denial, with the idea being that the days of excess may make the period of denial easier to tolerate. Lent is a time of fasting and personal denial that is intended to prepare Christians for Easter, which is one of the most important holidays in this religious tradition.
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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 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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  • 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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  • 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 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 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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  • 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 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 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 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 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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  • 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 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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  • 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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