NEW OREANS, LA - FEBRUARY 12:  A float in the Rex parade turns on to Canal Street to large crowds with out outstretched arms on Mardi Gras Day.  Fat Tuesday, the traditional celebration on the day before Ash Wednesday and the begining of Lent, is marked in New Orleans with parades and marches through many neighborhoods in the city. (Photo by Rusty Costanza/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 161338988

Mardi Gras: the Fun and the Facts

By Michael Abler, Staff Writer

During the week of Feb. 12, it’ll be that time of year again for great celebration. That’s right, it’ll be the famed event know as Mardi Gras. Also known as ‘Fat Tuesday’ in French, Mardi Gras marks the ritual of eating fattening foods and such before the Lenten tradition of fasting and it usually occurs the day right before Ash Wednesday. In England, Mardi Gras is known as Shrove Tuesday, which comes from the word Shrive which means to ‘confess’. This year, Ash Wednesday takes place on Valentine’s Day, which marks the start of the Lenten season.

Mardi Gras’ origins as a holiday first began in the late 17th century as a French Catholic celebration thanks to the Le Moyne Brothers’ expedition. This was done by King Louis XIV to defend what was then known as Louisiana and a few other territories in the south that would eventually become U.S. states during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. These states are now known as Louisiana, Alabama, parts of eastern Texas, and Mississippi.

When the expedition led the men to camp about 60 miles away from what would later be known as the city of New Orleans, Mardi Gras was born. The leader of the group, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville named their spot, Point Du Mardi Gras. Afterward, his brother Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville founded the first capital of French Louisiana, which is now Mobile, Alabama. There weren’t many traditional celebrations of Mardi Gras until 1703.

While it’s not a nationally recognized holiday or something that is universally celebrated on a global scale, there are still plenty of places throughout America that proudly take the time to celebrate the occasion. Most notably places that have a French ancestry, places like New Orleans, Louisiana.

One of the most iconic traditions of Mardi Gras is to eat some King Cake and hope to find a small figure of a baby within the pastry, which is a symbol for good luck. Jambalaya is also a traditional staple..

The city with the most iconic performances and/or events around this time of year is New Orleans, complete with crazy decorations and a full-on parade to boot. This year’s festivities include parades in both Uptown New Orleans, as well as the French Quarter. Despite it not be as widely celebrated in America as many other holidays, one thing’s for certain, this celebration knows how to bring colorful joy to all that take part in joining it.

Graphic by Billy Ferguson