While smaller, unofficial festivals may have been held elsewhere in the United States prior to this time, the first official, organized Mardi Gras celebration was held in Mobile, Alabama in 1703. That's before the United States was even a country, and more than 100 years before Mardi Gras celebrations became a tradition in New Orleans, where the first recorded Mardi Gras parade was held in 1837. In fact, the City of Mobile claims that its citizens are responsible for helping the citizens of New Orleans incorporate parade floats into their celebrations in 1857.
The year 2003 marked the 300th year that official Mardi Gras celebrations have been taking place in the United States. Outside of the United States, some form Mardi Gras has been celebrated for hundreds or possibly even thousands of years. Like many other Christian holidays, Mardi Gras could have pagan roots that can be traced back to ancient Greece. According to History.com, the festival may originally have been intended as a celebration of spring and fertility. However, these claims are sometimes disputed, with some explanations holding the festival is simply a natural human response to the restrictive nature that exists during Lent, showcasing people's desire to enjoy themselves prior to a period of self-denial.