Mardi Gras is the name given to the massively popular Christian holiday that is celebrated throughout the world. It comes with many names, such as Carnival and Shrove Tuesday, and the history of the celebration dates back thousands of years.
The biggest Mardi Gras festivities begin on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, although many parades and celebrations occur in the lead up to Lent season – this is known as Mardi Gras season, which often begins weeks in advance of Mardi Gras.
Celebrations are wide and varied depending on the location, although most involve carnivals, parades, balls, and other festivities. Most involve input from krewes. These are social groups that organize and take part in the parades, with each krewe designing their own themed costumes and floats for the celebrations.
In the United States, the most prominent Mardi Gras Celebrations take place in New Orleans, Louisiana. The city celebrates the holiday like no other place in the country, with massive public gatherings enjoying the various festivities on show.
History of Mardi Gras in the US
It’s widely believed that the first ever Mardi Gras in America occurred on March 3, 1699. During this time, French explorers landed in the area now known as Louisiana, only a few dozen miles from the now famous epicenter of US Mardi Gras celebrations – New Orleans.
At this time, only a minor celebration took place, coining it as Point du Mardi Gras. The celebration quickly became a local tradition over the years, with local French settlements honoring the occasion with street parties, masked parades, and over indulging in foods prior to Lent.
In fact, Mardi Gras is French for ‘Fat Tuesday’, referring to the practice of eating rich foods on the day before Lent, where ritual fasting officially begins in the lead-up to Easter.
After Spanish occupation of New Orleans many years later, the now wild and raunchy celebrations were forbidden, leading to a ban on Mardi Gras until 1812 when Louisiana became an official state.
The celebrations would eventually return in 1827 when a group of students adorned themselves in vibrant outfits to celebrate Mardi Gras, taking inspiration from festivities they witness during a visit to Paris.
Ten years after this, the first official record of a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans occurred – and have continued to do so to this day!
Local Mardi Gras Celebrations
As Mardi Gras is an important celebration for many Christians (particularly for Roman-Catholics), the celebrations are not just limited to New Orleans and Louisiana. In fact, you can easily find Mardi Gras celebrations throughout the United States!
Of course, for anyone looking to celebrate a wild and crazy Mardi Gras, you really cannot beat visiting New Orleans. However, nearby locations such as Mobile, Alabama (which is home to oldest annual Carnival) and St. Louis, Missouri are certainly worth checking out.
However, there’s nothing stopping you from finding out any local celebrations at nearby churches or social clubs organizing parades that could be taking place. Given how long Mardi Gras parades and festivals can run for, you should have plenty of time to find some sort of celebration – you just might need to look further afield!