Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is a cultural celebration that takes place on the day before the start of Lent. It is a time for people to indulge in food, drink, and revelry before the solemnity of the Lenten season begins. Mardi Gras is celebrated in various parts of the world, but it is most famously associated with the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.
When is Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is always celebrated on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is the 40-day period of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter Sunday. Since the date of Easter changes every year, the date of Mardi Gras also changes. However, it always falls between February 3 and March 9.
When is Mardi Gras 2023?
Mardi Gras 2023 will be celebrated on Tuesday, February 28.
When is Mardi Gras 2024?
Mardi Gras 2024 will be celebrated on Tuesday, February 13.
When is Mardi Gras 2025?
Mardi Gras 2025 will be celebrated on Tuesday, March 4.
When is Mardi Gras 2026?
Mardi Gras 2026 will be celebrated on Tuesday, February 17.
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What to do on Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras is a time to let loose and have fun. People often wear colorful costumes and masks and attend parades and parties. In New Orleans, the most famous Mardi Gras celebration, the festivities begin weeks before the actual day of Mardi Gras, with parades, parties, and other events.
The biggest parade takes place on the day of Mardi Gras itself, with elaborate floats, marching bands, and people throwing beads, trinkets, and other souvenirs to the crowd. Other cities in the United States, such as Mobile, Alabama, and Galveston, Texas, also have their own Mardi Gras celebrations.
Where to do Mardi Gras?
While New Orleans is the most famous destination for Mardi Gras, there are many other places around the world where you can celebrate the holiday. In Brazil, the city of Rio de Janeiro hosts a huge Carnival celebration, which is similar to Mardi Gras. In Venice, Italy, people wear elaborate masks and costumes and attend masquerade balls during the Carnival season. In Quebec City, Canada, the Winter Carnival takes place around the same time as Mardi Gras, with parades, ice sculptures, and other winter-themed activities.
If you’re looking to celebrate Mardi Gras in the United States, there are plenty of options besides New Orleans. Mobile, Alabama, claims to be the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the United States and hosts a two-and-a-half-week-long celebration each year. Galveston, Texas, has been celebrating Mardi Gras since the 19th century and hosts parades and parties throughout the city. Other cities, such as St. Louis, Missouri, and San Diego, California, also have their own Mardi Gras celebrations.
Mardi Gras History
The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons. From here, the traditional revelry of “Boeuf Gras,” or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies.
On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, and named it “Pointe du Mardi Gras” when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. Bienville also established “Fort Louis de la Louisiane” (which is now Mobile) in 1702. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America’s very first Mardi Gras.
In 1704, Mobile established a secret society (Masque de la Mobile), similar to those that form our current Mardi Gras krewes. It lasted until 1709. In 1710, the “Boeuf Gras Society” was formed and paraded from 1711 through 1861. The procession was held with a huge bull’s head pushed along on wheels by 16 men. Later, Rex would parade with an actual bull, draped in white and signaling the coming Lenten meat fast. This occurred on Fat Tuesday.
New Orleans was established in 1718 by Bienville. By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans, but not with the parades we know today. In the early 1740s, Louisiana’s governor, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, established elegant society balls, which became the model for the New Orleans Mardi Gras balls of today.
The earliest reference to Mardi Gras “Carnival” appears in a 1781 report to the Spanish colonial governing body. That year, the Perseverance Benevolent & Mutual Aid Association was the first of hundreds of clubs and carnival organizations formed in New Orleans.
By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras. Dazzling gaslight torches, or “flambeaux,” lit the way for the krewe’s members and lent each event an exciting air of romance and festivity. In 1856, six young Mobile natives formed the Mistick Krewe of Comus, invoking John Milton’s hero Comus to represent their organization. Comus brought magic and mystery to New Orleans with dazzling floats (known as tableaux cars) and masked balls. Krewe members remained anonymous.
In 1870, Mardi Gras’ second Krewe, the Twelfth Night Revelers, was formed. This is also the first recorded account of Mardi Gras “throws.”
Newspapers began to announce Mardi Gras events in advance, and they even printed “Carnival Edition” lithographs of parades’ fantastic float designs (after they rolled, of course – themes and floats were always carefully guarded before the procession). At first, these reproductions were small, and details could not be clearly seen. But beginning in 1886 with Proteus’ parade “Visions of Other Worlds,” these chromolithographs could be produced in full, saturated color, doing justice to the float and costume designs of Carlotta Bonnecase, Charles Briton and B.A. Wikstrom. Each of these designers’ work was brought to life by talented Parisian paper-mache’ artist Georges Soulie’, who for 40 years was responsible for creating all of Carnival’s floats and processional outfits.
1872 was the year that a group of businessmen invented a King of Carnival, Rex, to preside over the first daytime parade. To honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff, the businessmen introduced Romanoff’s family colors of purple, green and gold as Carnival’s official colors. Purple stands for justice; gold for power; and green for faith. This was also the Mardi Gras season that Carnival’s improbable anthem, “If Ever I Cease to Love,” was cemented, due in part to the Duke’s fondness for the tune.
The following year, floats began to be constructed entirely in New Orleans instead of France, culminating with Comus’ magnificent “The Missing Links to Darwin’s Origin of Species,” in which exotic paper-mache’ animal costumes served as the basis for Comus to mock both Darwin’s theory and local officials, including Governor Henry Warmoth. In 1875, Governor Warmoth signed the “Mardi Gras Act,” making Fat Tuesday a legal holiday in Louisiana, which it still is.
Like Comus and the Twelfth Night Revelers, most Mardi Gras krewes today developed from private social clubs with restrictive membership policies. Since all of these parade organizations are completely funded by their members, New Orleanians call it the “Greatest Free Show on Earth!”
In conclusion, Mardi Gras is a festive and exciting time of year, with celebrations taking place all over the world. Whether you choose to celebrate in New Orleans or elsewhere, be sure to wear your most colorful costume, collect some beads and trinkets, and let the good times roll!