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