While only celebrated in a few places, Mardi Gras is a huge celebration in certain regions of the U.S. before the fasting season of Lent. With the meaning of “Fat Tuesday” in French, Mardi Gras is a day filled with food, celebrations, and parades. Join student blogger
Katie Overby as she shares about this festive holiday unique to her region.
The Meaning of Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is always celebrated the Tuesday before the start of Lent, where many spend the next 40 days fasting and giving up certain indulgences. This is meant to represent the biblical story which depicts Jesus in the desert fasting for 40 days. Before the start of Lent, Mardi Gras is celebrated as the final celebration before those 40 days of fasting and sacrifice. It is celebrated in a number of cities, however, no Mardi Gras celebration compares to that of New Orleans, Louisiana due to the city's large population of Catholics.
One of the best parts of Mardi Gras is the parades. Elaborately decorated trailers are pulled by tractors and the riders throw favors such as beads, stuffed animals, doubloons (gold coins), and other trinkets. Observers of the parade will hold up both of their hands and yell “Throw me something Mister” at the riders, in the hopes of catching a lot of prizes. Children can often be seen in ladders with wooden seats attached to the tops in order to be better seen by parade riders, and therefore have better chances of catching these throws. Throughout the parade, there are also marching bands, dance groups, and other festive groups.
Since Mardi Gras is a day of feasting, there is a great deal of delicious food that comes along with the day, but perhaps the most popular food associated with Mardi Gras is King Cake. King Cake is a cinnamon-flavored cake in the shape of a ring, topped with green, gold, and purple icing and sprinkles. It can be filled with jam or cream, but what’s most special about a King Cake is the plastic baby hidden inside one of the slices. The baby is meant to represent baby Jesus and whoever finds said baby in their cake is declared the King for the day and must buy the next king cake.
It is not uncommon to see people in wild and elaborate costumes. The main colors of Mardi Gras are green, purple, and gold which many people incorporate into their outfits. Mardi Gras outfits are often adorned with glitters, sparkle, and all things loud. It is also not uncommon to see masks worn, especially by float riders where it is required. This has roots in historical times where often people could not intermingle due to their respective social classes, however, masks created with anonymity and allowed everyone to celebrate Mardi Gras regardless of social status. Today masks continue to play a large part in Mardi Gras costumes.