Tuesday, February 5th is Mardis Gras, which is French for Fat Tuesday. It is the final day of Carnival which begins 12 days after Christmas on January 6th. Mardis Gras always falls exactly 47 days before Easter. Traditionally, it is the last day for Catholics to indulge—and often overindulge—before Ash Wednesday starts the weeks of fasting that come with Lent. The whole point of Fat Tuesday is to gorge yourself on all the food, drink and revelry you’re about to give up for awhile. In the United States, Mardi Gras draws millions of fun-seekers to New Orleans every year. Mardi Gras has been celebrated in New Orleans on a grand scale, with masked balls and colorful parades, since French settlers arrived in the early 1700s. Hidden behind masks people behaved so badly that for decades in the early 19th century masks were deemed illegal in that party-loving city.
As we all know, the millions of colorful beaded necklaces thrown from floats are the most visible symbols and souvenirs of Mardi Gras. People do outrageous things to catch the most throws. Some dress as priests hoping the many Catholics on the floats will shower them with goodies. Others dress their children in eye-catching costumes and seat them, holding baskets to catch the loot, on ladders that tower over the crowds.
Here are some fun facts about Mardis Gras:
- Throws – Inexpensive trinkets including beaded necklaces and coins tossed from floats during the parades.
- Carnival Balls – Formal parties given by a krewe (private club) for its members and their guests.
- Parading with ladders – The ladder rule of thumb is, you place the ladder at least as many feet back from the curb as it is tall.
Other cities most famous for their Mardi Gras celebrations include Louisiana, Venice, Italy and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.