Mardi Gras, also called Fat Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, is a yearly Carnival or Carnaval celebration that is usually in February or March. It starts during or after Three Kings Day, the Christian feasts of the Epiphany, and ends on the day before Ash Wednesday. Today, Mardi Gras is a holiday that has evolved beyond the local New Orleans celebrations and is a festive time in many countries around the world.
The History of Mardi Gras
The holiday we know as Mardi Gras started in medieval Europe. The longstanding tradition was linked to pagan and fertility rites in December during the winter solstice, which then became associated with Christmas. What was originally called "fatted calf" or "Boeuf Gras" spread through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries and on to the French house of the Bourbons. When French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville came 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, he named the plot of ground "Pointe du Mardi Gras" after he and his men realized it was the eve of the Boeuf Gras holiday. In 1702, he founded Fort Louis de la Louisiane, now Mobile, Alabama, which celebrated its first Mardi Gras the following year.
Bienville established the city of New Orleans in 1718, and Mardi Gras was openly celebrated by the 1930s. In the early 1740s, Marquis de Vaudreuil, Louisiana's governor, started the elegant society balls that became the basis for today's Mardi Gras. The city also held street processions of floats, maskers, carriages, and horseback riders with gas-lit torches held by krewe members. Masked balls then became the norm.
The Rex, or King of Carnival, was invented in 1872. His role was to preside over the first daytime parade. In 1873, people constructed the floats entirely in the city instead of in France.
Why Mardi Gras Is Important
Mardi Gras is known as "the greatest free show on earth." It's a local holiday that is deep in the DNA of New Orleans but with a spirit that everyone wants to celebrate. Mardi Gras is the French name for Fat Tuesday, a Christian holiday in which people eat fatty, rich foods before the Lenten season sacrifices and fasting. This part of Shrovetide, known as pre-Lenten season or Forelent, is called Shrove Tuesday in the United Kingdom. The word "shrove" comes from the word "shrive," meaning "to absolve or administer the sacrament of confession to." It's important for Christians around the world, especially Roman Catholics. The holiday is an extravagant and happy festival that allows for indulgence and creativity for the week-long period it lasts.
Types of Mardi Gras Deals to Look for
There are certain businesses that offer deals and discounts on Mardi Gras, such as restaurants and travel agencies. Some apps also offer savings for the holiday. You can get deals on the local level or travel to another state, even right in the Mardi Gras hometown of New Orleans.
Restaurants and Bars
Applebee's and Buffalo Wild Wings are examples of famous national chains that are likely to have dining deals for Mardi Gras. Some smaller chains also have special offers, such as Fat Tuesday, Razzoo's Cajun Cafe, Fatz Cafe, and Dingers. Or you can stop by an independent, local restaurant or bar near you, such as Mardi Gras Tuesday or Tokio Pub.
Food Delivery and Coupon Apps
If you're into digital coupons or ordering food for delivery or pickup, you're in luck. Several businesses, including restaurants, have made it easy to take advantage of savings for Mardi Gras. Check out food delivery and coupon apps for the best deals on Mardi Gras at local businesses near you.
If Mardi Gras celebrations have made it big in your city, you're likely to find local events for the festivity. Georgia and Florida, for example, have a Mardi Gras 5k run. The tickets are low in price and serve as fundraisers to support non-profit organizations in the local community.
Flights, carnival cruise lines, Mardi Gras tour packages, and New Orleans casinos and resorts all offer savings during the week-long celebration of Fat Tuesday. Many people travel to New Orleans to celebrate, with some making it a regular trip every year.
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Low-Budget Ways to Celebrate Mardi Gras
There are many ways to still celebrate Mardi Gras if you're low on money or supplies. The extravagant holiday can be a local festivity among family and friends, or it can make use of free spectator events. You don't have to travel to New Orleans and spend a lot of money to celebrate Mardi Gras. Being flexible with flights, taking advantage of travel rewards, reserving an Airbnb over a hotel, and staying within a few miles from the center of the action can save you hundreds of dollars. You don't have to celebrate in its hometown, either: Mobile, Alabama, was where the first Mardi Gras parade was held, and Pensacola, Florida, has a Grand Mardi Gras Parade.
DIY Ways to Celebrate Mardi Gras
Get creative for Mardi Gras as you celebrate this special occasion. Here are a couple of fun ideas for you and your family and friends to celebrate the holiday.
Celebrate with special recipes at home
There are several drink and food recipes that are perfect for celebrating Mardi Gras at home:
Desserts or pastries, such as king cake (also called three king's cake) and beignets
Popular foods such as muffaletta, which was made common by Italian immigrants in New Orleans
Classic cocktails, such as the hurricane cocktail of the French Quarter and the sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans since 2008
Just because you can’t make it to the official celebration, you can still look the part with a do-it-yourself mask. This is especially great for kids. Get some inexpensive paper masks and craft supplies for a party and decorate your own masks.
Dress the part
Plastic beads along with gold, green, purple, and sparkly items from your closet can give you a celebratory look. Add some makeup if you like and you are good to go.
Watch Mardi Gras live
With modern technology, you can live stream Mardi Gras events from New Orleans. It’s the next best thing to being there.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mardi Gras
Is there a Mardi Gras Day?
Yes, Mardi Gras is celebrated every year in several countries around the world.
Why is Mardi Gras celebrated?
Mardi Gras is the French version of Fat Tuesday, a Christian holiday of indulgence before the sacrifices and fasting of Lent begin.
On what day is Mardi Gras celebrated?
Mardi Gras is celebrated on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which will fall on March 1 in 2022.