French for "Fat Tuesday," Mardi Gras originated as a celebration of spring and evolved into an indulgent period often followed by fasting and sacrifice. It is an opportunity to have some
The Rex Organization — the group founded in 1872 that’s also famous for starting the tradition of naming a parading Carnival King — claims credit for the purple, green and gold color scheme now associated with Mardi Gras. That was the color-scheme of their 1892 “Symbolism of Colors” parade, and the three shades are said to symbolize justice,
faith and power, respectively.
relating to a belief in communion with an ultimate reality
Meanwhile, Alabama news site AL.com reports that the Boeuf Gras Society, a
mystic society started in Mobile in 1710, kicked off a 1711 parade down Dauphin Street with a giant bull’s head on wheels (the fatted bull was used in ancient Carnival celebrations in France).
act or practice of refraining from indulging an appetite
Shrove Tuesday derives from the Anglo-Saxon Christian practice of going to confession and being shriven, or absolved of sins before the 40-day fast leading up to Easter. It marked the final day to use up eggs and other fatty foods before
abstinence, and pancakes were the perfect solution (hence the alternate holiday name).
Along the way,
Shrove Tuesday emerged as the last day of
Shrovetide, the week preceding the start of Lent. The word
Shrovetide is the English equivalent of Carnival, which comes from the Latin words carnem levare, meaning “to take away the flesh.” “To
shrive” means to hear confessions, according to Catholic theologian Father William P. Saunders.
The blazing torches lighting the way for parade-goers during nighttime Mardi Gras festivities are called flambeaux (French for torch), and they date back to a
custom established by the original Mardi Gras krewe, Comus. In the mid-19th century, the torches were a necessity due to the lack of sufficient street lighting.
In the decades that followed, New Orleans and other French settlements began marking the holiday with street parties, masked balls and lavish dinners. When the Spanish took control of New Orleans, however, they abolished these rowdy
rituals, and the bans remained in force until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.
a particular society at a particular time and place
The cake has a trinket or baby figurine baked inside it to symbolize Christ and is eaten throughout Carnival festivities. Just as in Roman times, the person who finds the trinket is crowned king or queen of the Carnival, a distinction that carries various duties depending on the
culture, from preparing tamales for the next family party to riding on a parade float.
In a separate chamber, they came upon a
ghoulish spectacle: four monumental coffins, containing the skeletons of the 17th century Prussian king, Frederick the Great, Field Marshall von Hindenburg, and his wife.
Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the rich, fatty foods—meat, eggs, milk, lard and cheese—that remained in their homes, in
anticipation of several weeks of eating only fish and different types of fasting.
end, especially to reach a final or climactic stage
Masks and costumes have been associated with Shrove Tuesday celebrations for centuries. And even today of the masks commonly seen in New Orleans on Mardi Gras are the same types popularized by the two-to-three-week-long Carnivale in Venice that
culminates with Fat Tuesday.
Created on January 25, 2023
(updated January 27, 2023)
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