It's Mardi Gras Time in New Orleans: History and Origin.
February 03 2015, 0 Comments
Every January as most people are recovering from the holiday season, New Orleanians and visitors from all over the world are warmly anticipating one of their favorite seasons: Mardi Gras.
Surprisingly, if you polled the average New Orleanian, you’d find out that many from the younger generation don’t know much about the origins of the Carnival season other than the daiquiris are colder, the crawfish are hotter, and the beads are worth more than gold. Therefore, SeaTurtle Sports presents you with some fun facts about why we celebrate Mardi Gras.
To start with, Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” which is the day before the Catholic holiday Ash Wednesday. This became a celebration back in the medieval days. Before Mardi Gras was a Catholic holiday, the Romans practiced paganism. When the Church became the government, instead of trying to abolish all pagan rituals, they decided to try to change what the symbols meant and create new meanings. Festivals like the Saturnalia and Lupercalia Roman festivals developed into more of a giant party to celebrate the coming of Ash Wednesday and indulging for two to three weeks prior to practicing a penance for 40 days (representing the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert and before his crucifixion).
The tradition transferred to New Orleans when Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville landed some 60 miles directly south of New Orleans and named it “Pointe du Mardi Gras” after realizing it was the Tuesday before “Boeuf Gras” (fatted calf) which eventually became what is more commonly celebrated today as Ash Wednesday. Krewes began to form in 1704 in Mobile and parades started rolling in 1710. A bull’s head was the front runner of the parades which was later replaced by an actual bull draped in white to signify the Lenten meat feast celebrated on, you guessed it, Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras). Masks were worn to escape society and class restraints during the parades and that tradition has carried over into present day.
New Orleans was established in 1718 and Mardi Gras quickly became part of it. Elegant society balls were thrown and masquerades were attended by everyone who was anyone; a tradition still practiced today. Flambeauxs, or gaslight torches, lit the way for the horse-drawn floats. More krewes began to emerge and suddenly Mardi Gras was not just a one day celebration.
Today there are dozens of parades to catch! From the less extreme in the suburbs of New Orleans to the main attractions that roll along the Uptown and Downtown routes, there is something for everyone. Celebrities grace us with their presences as Grand Marshalls in the Super Krewes (parades like Endymion and Bacchus), masks are still worn by almost every krewe member in every parade, and flambeauxs still light the way, but the floats are way more fun to see than decorated horse-drawn carriages.
So come on down to New Orleans this Carnival season and experience all of the sights, sounds, and smells Mardi Gras has to offer.
In keeping with our SeaTurtle Sports’ brand and New Orleanian culture, Laissez les bon temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)