Most people know Mardi Gras, which means "Fat Tuesday" in French, as a day of parades and partying, especially in connection to New Orleans. Many people are unaware, though, of the origins of Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras is actually a Christian holiday with origins in pagan spring and fertility rites, such as Satrnalia and Lupercalia.
Historians think that the first Mardi Gras celebrated in the United States happened before the country was actually formed, on March 3, 1699, when some French explorers landed in what is now Louisiana, south of the future New Orleans. They celebrated with loud street parties, balls, and fancy dinners. The Spanish stopped this tradition when they took control of the city and bans were set in place until Louisiana joined the Union in 1812.
Many countries around the world have similar festivities on Mardi Gras. In Brazil they have Carnival, in Quebec they have a Winter Carnival, and in Venice it’s Carnevale.
To learn more about Mardi Gras, check out some of the links below!
Ballah, Jody L., MA Dip.Ed. "Mardi Gras." Salem Press Encyclopedia (2014): Research Starters. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
"All About Mardi Gras: Arts, Culture & Food In South Louisiana." New Orleans Magazine 48.5 (2014): 93. Corporate ResourceNet. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
Kasprzak, Perry. "Blues For New Orleans: Mardi Gras And America's Creole Soul." Southern Cultures 1 (2009): 93. Literature Resource Center. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
McDonald, James C., and Marcia G. Gaudet. Mardi Gras, Gumbo, And Zydeco : Readings In Louisiana Culture. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
Mitchell, Reid. All On A Mardi Gras Day : Episodes In The History Of New Orleans Carnival. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1995. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 17 Feb. 2015.