What are the traditions behind the Mardi Gras?


Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, is the time to revel in all things gluttonous. Once a holiday to use up food before fasting during the Lenten season, Mardi Gras has turned into a huge celebration, and the epicenter of the festivities in the U.S. is New Orleans. Music, parades, costumes, masks and above all, excitement, cover the city. Everywhere you look is purple, green or gold and beads fly from beautifully decorated floats. But, what are some of the traditions behind this renowned holiday?

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PabloE 2 years 2 Answers 521 views 0

Answers ( 2 )

  1. Mardi Gras Krewes – A Krewe is an organization that puts on the parades and balls for Mardi Gras, and their origin can be traced back to 1800s. There are dozens of these groups now, and they can be anything from super exclusive (which allow only relatives and descendants of other members), to very welcoming (which allow anyone to join that can build a float!) Many krewes are named for figures in Greek mythology and typically have a theme for their float each year. The two largest Krewes are Zulu and Rex, and these larger groups designate royal parties with a king and queen to ride on the float – in memory of the first “King of Mardi Gras,” Rex himself.

    Purple, Green and Gold – The traditional colors associated with Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold. Purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold signifies power. There are several theories on how these colors were chosen. One theory is that in the late 1800s, the members of Rex were inspired by a visit from the Russian Grand Duke to make their own official colors purple, green and gold.
    Another theory is based on the Catholic origin of Mardi Gras, as all three colors have been used by the Catholic Church throughout history.

  2. King Cake
    King Cakes, the classic sweet treat of Mardi Gras, are customarily made of sweet brioche-style dough, shaped into a braided oval, and covered in icing and sugar with a small plastic toy baby baked inside. Modern King Cakes have added fillings such as cream cheese, chocolate or a variety of fruit flavors. The tradition comes from early French settlers, who had a custom of celebrating the coming of the Magi with a similar cake. This is where the small plastic baby comes in – it was originally a symbol of the baby Jesus. Now, it is a fun game to see who gets the piece of cake with the baby hidden inside. It is said to be good luck to find the baby, and it is also common for the person who finds the baby to bring the King Cake to the party next year.

    Beads and Dubloons
    Throwing beads from the floats has been a part of the celebrations for as long as the parades have taken place. Originally, these beads were made from glass, but this has since changed for practicality purposes. Beads come in every shape and color, but modern beads have become more eccentric, even having small plastic figures on them. Whatever you do, don’t pick up beads from the ground – it is considered bad luck! Dubloons, small two-sided coins, are also thrown from the floats and are indicative of the first type of coins minted in America.

    If you’re traveling to NOLA to take part in the bacchanalia, check out the parade schedule put out by Hotel Monteleone. This iconic New Orleans hotel in the French Quarter features the famous Carousel Bar and Lounge, which is a great place to take in the sights while enjoying a Sazerac – a local variation of an old-fashioned cognac or whiskey. Even if you’re not celebrating in New Orleans, now you know how to make the festivities feel traditional, just like you’re on Bourbon Street.

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