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Where Did Mardi Gras Come From?

Aug 17, 2007
There are varied opinions on the origins of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French, the English call the holiday Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. No matter where it takes place or what it is called Mardi Gras is an age old celebration. Carnival is considered the mother of Mardi Gras and originated in Rome leading to a popular way of feasting and being hedonistic before Lent. The celebration as it is known today is still celebrated in South America and in predominately Catholic countries in Europe.

Different cultures all over the world have times set aside for community jubilation and in most cases are celebrations of the New Year. The act of celebrating the New Year has actually been proven in findings by anthropologists all over the planet. The exact timing varied among the different cultures from Mid December to Mid February.

The tradition of the grotesque looking figures seen in current Mardi Gras floats and Carnival characters goes back to the Roman festival of Saturnalia in which the Romans burned the king of ancient Saturnalia in effigy.

Mardi Gras as it exists today was first celebrated in the Middle Ages. This followed the Reformation period in Europe that occurred in the 14th and 15th centuries. After the reforms many of the restrictions from many of the ancient Roman Catholic practices were lifted. The name Fat Tuesday is said to come from the French custom of parading a fat ox through the streets of Paris on Shrove Tuesday but another story says it comes from the custom of using all the fats present in the home before the arrival of Lent.

Shrove Tuesday, derived its name from the old practice of confessing one's sins on this day in preparation of the holy Lenten season. The verb 'to shrive' means to confess oneself and receive absolution. The three-day period of Sunday, Monday, and Shrove Tuesday, was known as Shrovetide. following which the period of Lent begins.

Even though Mardi Gras is traditionally a Catholic celebration, in the United States everyone uses it as an excuse to party especially in New Orleans which was the originator of Mardi Gras in the country, and other parts of Louisiana as well as other areas on the upper Gulf Coast such as Mobile and Pensacola.

According to history, French explorers brought Mardi Gras to New Orleans in 1699 when they celebrated on the Mississippi River. The celebration has gained more and more popularity over the years with many people traveling to New Orleans to celebrate though it remains to be seen what effect Hurricane Katrina's devastation will have on this practice. Despite the enormous increase in the Hispanic population the festival has maintained its original French flavor.

Whatever be the origin and history, that fact is that today it is celebrated with much fanfare as a public holiday only in the southern states of Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, and its fame has gradually extended nationwide, or for that matter, worldwide.
About the Author
Gregg Hall is a business consultant and author for many online and offline businesses and lives in Navarre Florida with his 16 year old son. For great costumes go to http://www.costumesplusmore.com
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