Every year, millions of people travel to New Orleans for the city’s yearly Mardi Gras festival. Though many people consider the holiday as Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, when the Christian season of Lent begins, it commences on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th and lasts for many weeks before ending on Fat Tuesday. So here is the history of Mardi Gras traditions that inspired people so much.
There is much more than you think about the history of these Mardi Gras legends that also include many practices connected with the celebrations. They are not quite casual. Here’s why some of the most peculiar customs are involved in this traditional, months-long gathering.
If you’ve never had an opportunity to taste a king cake, you don’t know the best part about it. While some assume the delightful round cake records back to 1870s France, others believe it started in the Middle Ages. Both ways, it is typically connected with Christianity particularly, the feast of the Epiphany. This transpires every year on January 6th (also recognized as the twelfth day of Christmas), and it and describes the day that the three magi (or emperors) visited the baby Jesus.
Most Mardi Gras embellishments are gold, yellow, and purple, but have you ever queried why? Back in 1892, the theme for the Rex parade was “Symbolism of Colors,” at which time the three colors were assigned as the standard colors of the ceremony. The colors were adopted because of gold symbolizes power, green symbolizes faith, and purple symbolizes justice.
Besides beads, masks are an essential element of any Mardi Gras carnival. Though masks have been used all over the world for ages, this idea originated in the early days of Mardi Gras in New Orleans as a means for people to get around socioeconomic pressures and appointments. For these few days each year, people were able to convert into other personas as they walked about the city.
Flambeaux or blazing torches are another legendary elements of Mardi Gras. The first flambeaux were used at the festival of 1857 and started as a method to enable attendees to see what was going on during the demonstrations held at night. Formerly, the flambeaux were carried by men of color, both incarcerated selves and free men who were originally Creoles. The men would offer detailed dances while holding the torches, and spectators would toss coins in the street as rewards for the dancers.
If you’ve learned about “krewes” linked with Mardi Gras but aren’t certain what they are, you’ve come to the right place. In short, krewes are various clubs in New Orleans that coordinate and put on the Mardi Gras festivities in the city. They record back to 1857 when the Mystick Krewe of Comus put on the first Mardi Gras march and invented the phrase. It was the krewes that introduced many of the folklore we’re talking here, like flambeaux and masks. The five first krewes in New Orleans were Comus, Momus, Twelfth Night, Rex, and Proteus, and the association was initially restricted to rich white people. As a consequence, many new krewes rose up during the commencement of the 20th century to support clubs that had been left out, including women, African Americans, Irish, Italians, and Germans.
One of the most popular connections with Mardi Gras is the alleged custom of women showing their breasts in exchange for beads thrown from parade floats. But the thing is, this isn’t a Mardi Gras culture in most of New Orleans. According to the Mardi Gras New Orleans website, “saying it is ‘tradition’ is like saying that people who get drunk and pass out on Bourbon Street are following tradition as well.”
Most of the krewes come to the ceremony equipped with some kind of small gadgets to throw off from their floats, known as “throws.” Beads are, of course, the most traditional and well-known of the throws. Parade spectators can yell, “Throw me something, mister!” at the krewes if they’re curious in getting beads or whatever else they have that day. The idea of tossing beads is deemed to have begun in the 1980s when one of the festival kings tossed strands of beads and artificial gems to his “loyal subjects” on the way. By the 1920s, this converted to traditional practice.
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