Mardi Gras is a tradition associated with age old pagan celebrations of spring and fertility. It first originated in Medieval Europe at the time when Christianity arrived in Rome. The religious leaders then incorporated these traditions into the new faith. This tradition passed through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th century to the French House of the Bourbons.
It has an interesting history. It was March 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”. His men then realized it was the eve of a festival holiday. Bienville established the “Fort Louis de la Louisiana” (now known as Mobile) in 1702. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America’s very first Mardi Gras. It lasted for around 6 years, and then in 1710, the “boeuf Gras Society”
was formed and paraded from 1711 to 1861. The procession was celebrated with a huge bull’s head pushed along on wheels by 16 men. Later, an actual bull was paraded signaling the coming Lenten meat fast. This occurred on Fat Tuesday.
In 1740, Louisiana’s governor established elegant society balls which became model for New Orleans Mardi Gras balls of today. By the 19th century, newspapers began announcing Mardi Gras events in advance and even print “Carnival edition” lithographs of parades’ fantastic float designs.
Mardi Gras is all about music, parades, picnics and excitement. Men, women, kids will sit on the ground, throw balls, play music and eat great food and watch the crowds walk by between parades. Experienced revelers make sure they bring a large bag with them so they can collect all beads and trinkets they catch from the parades. Participants wear costumes, or, at least, dress in colors like purple, green and gold, and adorn themselves with long beads caught from the previous parades. The tradition of colors started in 1892, with the theme “Symbolism of Colors”
where, purple represents Justice, green indicates Faith and Gold represents Power. But now there are five acceptable color choices, red, blue, purple, green and black.
If you really want to enjoy Mardi Gras make sure you wear comfortable clothing as you’ll probably do a lot of walking around. Since its usually held in February it’s better to dress in layers. If rain is predicted be sure to pack umbrellas and raincoats as you will have to spend a lot of time outdoors. And as for the costume pretty much everything goes. Just make sure you wear gold, green and purple.
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