Mardi Gras

Feb 272006
Authors: Mary Swanson

History of New Orleans Mardi Gras according to

1699- Pierre Le Moyne founds the camp "Pointe du Mardi Gras" on the Mississippi Delta

1746 – First record of feathery Mardi Gras Indian costumes

1835 – 1837 – The first Mardi Gras float

1875 – Mardi Gras is officially declared a legal holiday in Louisiana.

1970 – The Mardi Gras first ball is open to the public

Long before New Orleans became the mecca of Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S., countries and cultures around the world celebrated this frenzied, circus like holiday.

The Christian holiday of Mardi Gras originated from the ancient Roman holiday, Lupercalia, a circus like celebration honoring the Roman God Lupercus.

According to the American Catholic Web site, the Christianization of Europe caused Lupercalia to evolve into carnival. Carnival comes from the Latin came vale, meaning farewell to the flesh.

It's end marks the beginning of the Lenten season, the 40-day fasting period symbolizing the 40 days Christ spent in the desert. Carnival begins at epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas and the day traditionally used to celebrate the wise men's visitation of the Christ Child. It became a time for religious devotees to enjoy life before the strict regulations of the Lenten seasons.

According to legend, Mardi Gras' circular king's cakes represent the circular routes the wise men took to confuse King Herod about the whereabouts of Jesus. Originally, coins and beads were hidden in the cake as signs of good luck. Louisiana then began the tradition of hiding a plastic baby in the King's cake, with the understanding that the recipient of the baby would host next year's celebration.

"When I was in Mexico we celebrated the tradition of the king's cake on epiphany as well," said Kevin O'Brien, a senior liberal arts major.

Variations of type can be seen all over the world's celebrations of Carnival and Mardi Gras. With two of the biggest celebrations occurring in Nice, France and Munich, Germany, according to

Nice sponsors a 10-day celebration, which includes daily parades, concerts and street theater. Munich sponsors a weeklong celebration known as Fasching, which includes parades, processions and a ball.

In Southern Italy, people adorn costumes and produce an ancient play during Mardi Gras. In Binche, Belgium people dress in colorful costumes called gilles and carry baskets of oranges through the streets to throw to the crowds.

Mardi Gras' traditional colors of purple, green and gold represent the values of justice, faith and power respectively.

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