Mardi Gras is a Christian holiday and widespread cultural phenomenon that dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Also known as Carnival or Carnaval, it’s celebrated in many countries worldwide—mainly those with large Roman Catholic populations—on the day before the religious season of Lent begins. Brazil, Venice, and New Orleans hosted some of the holiday’s most famous public festivities, drawing thousands of tourists and party-goers annually.

Parades often characterize Mardi Gras celebrations through city streets, floats decorated in elegant colors and themes, dancing in the streets, and plenty of food. In New Orleans, visitors can expect to see a range of music styles, from jazz to rockabilly, played by local musicians on stages throughout the city’s French Quarter district.

Mardi Gras is derived from the French phrase for ‘Fat Tuesday.’

Ancient Rome celebrated these holidays with eating, drinking, and sometimes even gambling! But, of course, they also had games like chariot races or wrestling matches. I would love to see a chariot race down Bourbon Street in New Orleans during Mardi Gras!

Lent is a Christian holiday that marks the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying.

It’s also a time of penance and fasting.

In the Middle Ages, tradespeople and artisans would make floats and processions.

The Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans showcase the city’s history, culture, and heritage. They began as a folk festival to honor Carnival by those who lived there or had migrated there from other regions. Traditionally, this celebration was held when the first full moon after Midsummer’s Day occurred on or close to Shrove Tuesday (the day before Lent).

Mardi Gras is a French term that refers to the last day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras was first celebrated in Germany in 1250 AD when people would eat fatty foods and drink alcohol before starting their fasts for Lent.

English settlers brought the tradition of Mardi Gras to New Orleans in 1713, starting with a parade led by Governor Bienville’s troops after they defeated a British invasion force at Chalmette Plantation during their victory at the Battle of New Orleans in 1779 during the American Revolutionary War. This is where most Americans know its origin from.

It’s all about tradition.

Why do people wear masks?

Masks have always been a part of Mardi Gras, but their significance has changed. In the beginning, masks allowed wearers to escape society and class constraints. When wearing a mask, carnival goers were free to be whomever they wanted and mingle with whatever class they desired. However, they were also considered a diversion for poor people, and women who wore masks had their reputations questioned.

Today, everyone wears masks during Mardi Gras. Float riders are required to wear masks by law. On Fat Tuesday, everyone is free to wear masks—adding another element of excitement.

What is a king cake?

According to the Christian faith, Jesus showed himself to the three wise men and the world on January 6th, also known as Twelfth Night or the Epiphany. This is the day Mardi Gras season begins – hence king cake season.

Each king cake has a tiny baby inside (generally plastic now, but it might be made of porcelain or gold). In the past, you might have found an item such as a coin, bean, pecan, or pea in a king cake. The lucky person who receives the slice of cake with the baby has the next king cake party.

The king cake tradition is believed to have been brought over from France in the 1870s. Originally, king cakes were simple rings of dough with minor decorations. After the rich dough is braided and baked, they are covered with delicious sugar toppings in traditional Mardi Gras colors: purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power).

Mardi Gras beads are one of the most famous traditions at Mardi Gras.

They’re also one of the most colorful. But did you know that their colors come from a Russian prince?

The Krewe of Rex, which organized the first Mardi Gras parade in 1872, chose purple, green, and gold to represent justice, faith, and power—the traits they wanted to see displayed by those who received their bead throws. In addition, the people who caught these beads were said to get good luck for the coming year!

Today’s beads are made of plastic instead of glass, but they’re still one of the most famous Mardi Gras traditions.


Want a taste of New Orleans? Check out my jambalaya recipe: