By Alex Long
Traditionally a Roman Catholic holiday, Mardi Gras is a celebration that dates back thousands of years. The season of Mardi Gras begins on Epiphany and ends on Ash Wednesday, lasting a week. Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, marks the beginning of the season of lent. Mardi Gras was first celebrated in America in 1699 after French explorers landed in what they called Point Du Mardi Gras. The explorers held a small feast to celebrate Fat Tuesday and the start of lent. In the years that followed, Mardi Gras became a great celebration with street parties, dances, and great feasts. However, when Spain took control of New Orleans, they put a stop to the celebrations. The ban was in place until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812. In 1827, a new tradition began when students donned costumes and danced through the street of New Orleans. Today, Mardi Gras is celebrated very similarly to how the French originally celebrated with parades, food, and costumes.
This year, Mardi Gras is going to be held on February 28th. Party goers in New Orleans can expect to see floats, head dresses, and people decked out in purple, gold and green costumes. Glenelg Sophomore, Jared Rezeppa, who has celebrated Mardi Gras recalls that, “All of the streets were really busy and you could hear people partying until the next morning.” Because so many people are expecting a great celebration, there are many traditions to uphold this year on Mardi Gras.
Made of a braided danish dough decorated with sugar and candy, king cakes are served in celebration of lent. Some of the cakes have a plastic baby braided into the dough, and according to the Official Mardi Gras website, “ the "lucky" person who receives the slice of cake with the baby is asked to continue the festivities by having the next King Cake party (or at least purchasing the next cake for the office).” King Cakes are a special part of Mardi Gras, and some are even available for delivery for those who can’t be in New Orleans on Mardi Gras.
The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold. Glenelg Senior, Erin Cutroneo who has celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans before remembers Mardi Gras being, “A colorful, cultural explosion.” According to the official Mardi Gras website, “Purple Represents Justice. Green Represents Faith. Gold Represents Power.” As Erin recalled, colors are a huge part of Mardi Gras and almost everyone can be seen wearing either purple, green, or gold.
As reported by the Mardi Gras website, the tradition of wearing masks was originally started so that people could, “escape society and class constraints. When wearing a mask, carnival goers were free to be whomever they wanted to be.” Today however, most people wear masks and float riders are even required to wear the masks.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a world famous celebration. Other countries celebrate Fat Tuesday as well. For example, in Brazil, Fat Tuesday is called Carnaval and is celebrated with parades, food, and parties much like in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is a celebration that is not exclusive to anyone, and it brings people of all race, gender, and religion together through celebration.