The Mardi Gras is a Christian cultural phenomenon or carnival that begins on or after the Christian feast day of Epiphany and ends before the Ash Wednesday after which the solemn period of Lent begins. The Mardi Gras is celebrated across the world in places with a significant Roman Catholic population. Some of the notable Mardi Gras festivities are held in New Orleans in the United States, Venice in Italy, Quebec in Canada, and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Origins of Mardi Gras
As per the claims of scholars of ancient history, the origin of the Mardi Gras celebrations can be traced back to ancient pagan celebrations in Saturnalia and Lupercalia in pre-Christian Rome thousands of years back when people would engage in raucous merrymaking to celebrate the arrival of the spring season and fertility. With the arrival of the Christian faith in the country, the Christian religious leaders decided to include the local festivals as part of Christian festivities to please the locals and inspire them to adopt the new religion. Thus, the joyous and lively celebrations of Mardi Gras were added as a prelude to the 40 days of Lent to allow people to engage in merrymaking before entering the period of penance. Soon, the tradition of Mardi Gras spread to other parts of the Christian world where it was gladly accepted as a Christian festival associated with loads of fun and frolic.
Festivities and Traditions
During the Mardi Gras celebrations, people adorning colorful and flamboyant costumes and masks will dance, sing, and parade along the streets of their locality, socializing with their community members, friends, and family. Dancing, sports, and parade competitions are also held as part of the festivities. Social events encourage the gathering of large crowds where people participate in fun-filled activities as well as drink and eat together. Fatty foods, meat, eggs, bakery delicacies are also enjoyed by the people as a way to saturating their taste buds with delicacies before entering the Lent period of fasting and penance. Pancakes are also enjoyed as the traditional dish during this festival. The duration of the Mardi Gras celebrations varies widely from place to place from a single day to three days or even includes the entire stretch of period between the last night of Christmas and Ash Wednesday.
New Orleans Mardi Gras
One of the most popular Mardi Gras celebrations in the world takes place in the U.S. city of New Orleans in Louisiana. This is also the first place in the country to observe the Mardi Gras festivities when two French explorers introduced the concept of Mardi Gras to the people in the city in 1699. Soon, the French settlement in New Orleans started celebrating Mardi Gras each year with costumes, masks, street parties, balls and sumptuous feasts. However, when the Spanish took control of the area, the celebrations were banned and not revived again till 1812 after Louisiana was incorporated as a state in the newly independent United States of America. Today, Louisiana is the only state in the country where Mardi Gras is declared as a state holiday. The parades held during the festival are organized by social clubs called krewes, and attended by thousands of curious onlookers comprising of both domestic and international tourists.
Other Mardi Gras Celebrations From Around the Globe
The Mardi Gras is a festive time for Christians in many parts of the world. In Venice, tourists flock to the city during the time of the “Carnevale” which has been celebrated since the 13th Century in this Italian city and specializes in spectacular masquerade balls. In Brazil, the Brazilian Carnival involves a perfect blend of European, African, and Latin American cultures which culminates in its vibrant parades, lively music and dances, costumes and floats, and balls and street parties. The Mardi Gras celebrations in Canada’s quaint and beautiful city of Quebec are held as part of the Quebec Winter Carnival. In Denmark, the Fastevlan festivities witnesses fancily dressed children gathering candies from homes. Similarly, Mardi Gras celebrations continue to spread happiness and joy in all other parts of the world where it is celebrated.