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Mardi Gras traditions date back centuries

Mardi Gras
Posted at 10:22 AM, Feb 21, 2023

Today is Fat Tuesday and marks a day of celebration before the 40-day period of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

In New Orleans, thousands will celebrate Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is translated from French as Fat Tuesday.

According to Mardi Gras New Orleans, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste first arrived at a port 60 miles south of New Orleans the night before Fat Tuesday. Baptiste thusly named the port "Pointe du Mardi Gras.” 

Celebrations occurred throughout the 18th century as various balls, and social events would occur throughout the growing port city.

According to LSU,the first modern Mardi Gras parade was organized in 1857.An 1859 copy of the New Orleans Crescent captured the essence at a Mardi Gras celebration at the St. Charles Theater, which closed in 1967.

“The ball at the St. Charles Theater yesterday afforded those present at the various scenes of revelry of Mardi Gras night to compare notes, and we believe that the fact was settled that none had a better time than those who selected the St. Charles as the scene of their jollification,” the paper wrote. “The dancing arena of the wide pit and conjoined stage was spacious, and the floor being new laid, there was none of that usual ball-room nuisance, dust, which generally rises in response to the disturbing summons of a lively dance in suffocating and unsavory clouds. The attendance was just large enough to give dancers room to spread themselves with moderate enthusiasm, and the utmost order and decorum maintained. Almost all present were masked, dominoed or costumed, for at none of the up-town balls was the proportion of ordinary toilets and everyday faces so small.”

But just a few years after Mardi Gras celebrations began in New Orleans, the Civil War started. While the South was held by Confederate forces, the Union gained control of New Orleans and its ports in 1862, which helped the north eventually secure victory.

From 1862-65, Mardi Gras celebrations were postponed.

After the Civil War, Mardi Gras celebrations came roaring back. By 1875, Louisiana declared Mardi Gras a holiday. Although Louisiana is the only state to make Mardi Gras a holiday, other surrounding states have various carnival celebrations for Fat Tuesday.a

According to Mardi Gras New Orleans, the colors of purple, green and gold were picked in 1892. The organization says Purple stands for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.