Mardi Gras: History and Relation to Catholicism

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Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” is traditionally celebrated the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which is the day Lent begins. Mardi Gras is most popular in the United States in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans first Mardi Gras can be dated back to March 3, 1669, when two french explorers, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville landed in what is believed to be present-day New Orleans. The men celebrated their finding with a small celebration and named the land Point du Mardi Gras. In the years following this finding, Mardi Gras became more and more popular among the native citizens being celebrated by street parties where people would come together and share fatty foods and drinks along with throwing balls and dances wearing masks.

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Mardi Gras has been made a legal holiday in the state of Louisiana and is the only state to recognize it as an official holiday. Even though it is not a legal holiday in other states many cities across the United States ranging from San Diego, California to Galveston Island, Texas celebrate the event with festivities. The United States isn’t the only country that celebrates Mardi Gras. Rio de Janeiro in Brazil hosts a week long festival before the Lent season celebrating the traditions of the natives, European, and African people who make up a majority of Brazil’s population. Germany celebrates their Karnival for “fat tuesday” on Weuberfastnacht which is the week before Ash Wednesday. Quebec City in Canada also celebrates the event but in a quite different way then most countries. Quebec City, which is home to nearly 532,000 Canadians, celebrate the Mardi Gras season like most counties with binge eating and drinking but have their own traditions and customs. These traditions include a canoe race down the frozen St. Lawrence river along with a snow sculpture competition and one lucky person who gets to dress up as Bonhomme the snowman who gets an ice palace built for him by the people of Quebec City nearly two months before the carnival.

In Europe the beginning of “fat tuesday” was a time where people would come together and share their food and drinks with each other on the day before Ash Wednesday so that they could get rid of the last of their food before it can no longer be consumed and so that it does not spoil. The word carnival comes from it’s Latin words carne vale which literally means “farewell to the flesh.” The colors of purple, green, and gold aren’t just the colors of Mardi Gras for no reason. The color purple symbolizes justice, green represents faith, and gold signifies power. Another name for “Fat Tuesday” is “Shrove Tuesday” which is derived from the confession of sins called “shriving.”Another widely known name for this day is “Pancake day.” Pancakes are a great way to use up fatty foods and sugar preceding the Lenten season that puts a great emphasis on eating healthy and avoiding foods that are unhealthy and fattening. The week before Lent, Christians are to go to their confessor to confess their sins and wrongful actions. These Christian groups include Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodist, and Anglicans.

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