Lifestyle

What is Mardi Gras? Origins, traditions, and tips for celebrating this Christian occasion

Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” is a vibrant and festive celebration that marks the culmination of Carnival season.

Rooted in religious traditions and celebrated around the world, Mardi Gras is synonymous with colorful parades, lively music and an extravagant display of culture. 

The Christian holiday is celebrated across the United States and the globe. 

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New Orleans is a popular location to celebrate the day. 

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is a Christian holiday that dates back thousands of years and is celebrated every year on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, according to History.com. 

For Christians, Lent includes 40 days of fasting and focusing on God and occurs between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

Floats in the Rex parade roll along St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras Day, on Feb. 20, 2007, in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Although the very first United States Mardi Gras was in Mobile, Alabama, in 1699, it was officially established in New Orleans in 1718. 

The Louisiana city has remained the place that the holiday is associated with today.

In New Orleans, there are large parades and more formal events like glamorous balls that take place in celebration of Mardi Gras, according to the New Orleans website. 

Why is it called Fat Tuesday?

They call Mardi Gras “Fat Tuesday” because it signifies the day of indulgence and feasting before the start of Lent, a period of fasting and reflection in the Christian calendar. 

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The name reflects the tradition of enjoying foods on this day before entering a period of more restrained practices during Lent. 

Why is Mardi Gras celebrated? 

Traditionally, Mardi Gras encourages people to eat sweets, yummy food and celebrate before Lent begins.

Rooted in religious traditions, Mardi Gras offers a time of lively festivities before the solemnity of Lent begins.

New Orleans Mardi Gras parade

Revelers at the 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. (Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage)

Mardi Gras brings people together every year to enjoy the music, parades and food that is associated with the holiday.

Over the years, this occasion has become bigger and bigger in its celebrations. 

Is Mardi Gras more than one day?

Carnival unfolds across a season, while Mardi Gras is one day. 

Kicking off with the Feast of Epiphany on Jan. 6, the Carnival season sets the scene for joyous festivities that lead up to the vibrant celebration of Mardi Gras. 

Marking the onset of Lent, a 40-day period characterized by solemnity, Mardi Gras is a time of unrestrained behavior.

How do I celebrate Mardi Gras?

  1. Make a king cake
  2. Attend a Mardi Gras parade
  3. Decorate your house for your own Mardi Gras party

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1. Make a king cake 

King cake is one of the main foods of Mardi Gras. The cake dates way back to 12th-century France and made its way to New Orleans in the 1870s. 

A king cake is rather doughy in texture and has a sweeter taste.

It is sprinkled with cinnamon sugar on the top and often contains purple, green and gold, the colors of Mardi Gras. 

Purple signifies “justice,” green for “faith” and gold represents “power.” 

Often, there is a tiny plastic baby placed inside the king cake, which is representative of baby Jesus. 

It has become tradition that whoever finds the baby in their slice has to bake the next cake. 

King cake and plastic baby

King cake is typically a sweet, cinnamon-flavored dough twisted into an oval shape, representing a crown. (iStock)

2. Attend a Mardi Gras parade

Mardi Gras is all about the parades. Giant floats, extravagant costumes, loud music, decorative masks and, of course, infamous beads. 

Even if you don’t find yourself in New Orleans for the holiday, that doesn’t mean you can’t catch a Mardi Gras parade elsewhere. 

Other states that celebrate the occasion in an over-the-top way with parades are Alabama, Texas, Missouri, Florida and California. 

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If you are looking to catch a Mardi Gras parade, check what is going on locally in your area. There is a chance one could happen a lot closer to home than you’d think. 

3. Decorate your house for your own Mardi Gras party

If you want to celebrate, but also want to keep it simple, bring the party to you. Having a Mardi Gras party at home is a great option if you’ve got little ones. 

Mardi Gras display in New Orleans

Many embrace the festive spirit of Mardi Gras by decorating their homes with vibrant color schemes, including traditional purple, green and gold, symbolizing justice, faith and power. (Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

Transform your space into a Mardi Gras haven by incorporating vibrant decorations, masks and banners. Play lively jazz and Zydeco music to capture the spirit of New Orleans. 

You can dress up for the occasion as well, since costumes are such a huge part of the celebration. 

Wear feather boas, beads and masks. Decorate your own masks for a fun Mardi Gras activity. And don’t forget the king cake!

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Mardi Gras is a celebration of life, culture and the joyous spirit of the community. 

By immersing yourself in the traditions and celebrations, you can create lasting memories on this globally cherished occasion.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.


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