Mardi Gras in France

  • UPDATED Sep 21, 2018

Traditionally Mardi Gras was the week before Lent when the revelers could consume meat and dairy, fat and eggs, no holds barred. These days, while Lent is observed by few, the celebrations are undertaken manifold. The same no holds barred approach to the festivity of Mardi Gras is what makes it so memorable and insane.

With the unabashed pomp of outdoor feasts, masked balls, masquerade processions, parades, pageants, jugglers, stilt walkers and magicians, the carnival of Mardi Gras in France is enchanting and surreal.

Originally, Mardi Gras used to be the last day of celebration. Nowadays it is associated more with the idea of getting out there, getting dressed and partying!

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1. Annual Carnival Parad

Different cities have their own different styles of Carnivals. The celebrations of each are different and somewhat unique to them.

2. Carnival de Nice

The most famous of the French celebrations, over a million tourists gather from all over the world to watch the Carnival de Nice on the French Riviera in Nice. The revels last for over two weeks. The carnival follows a theme which is different every year. The floats in the parade and the dancers usually abide by it. The dawn to dusk parades feature over a thousand musicians and dancers from across the world. 

Also, you do not want to miss the famous Battle of Flowers on the Promenade des Anglais. where costumed models parade on flowered floats and throw confetti, streamers, flowers and fragrance at the crowd.

3. Carnival of Dunkerque

At the other end of the country, is the full throttle wildness and craziness of the Dunkerque Carnival. It lasts for about thirty days and reaches its peak on Mardi Gras. Unlike the celebrations at Nice, Dunkerque has no floats. Instead, there are mass processions with everyone caught up in the spirit of the festivities. With garish costumes and grotesque masks, cross-dressing outfits and bold statements, the overarching theme of the carnival seems to be ‘the most bonkers you can get and do’. The Mayor himself throws kippers for the crowd from the belfry balcony of the Town Hall. Fishermen dress up in their usual yellow oilskins, carry tall umbrellas, and competein making the most noise.

When the celebrations get to a head, you can slip away to Le Manoir Nord, only hour away, for a spell of relaxation that will recharge you right up and enervate you for rejoining the carnival bedlam in the city.

4. Paris Carnival

The Paris Carnival is comparatively tame in its revelry. It consists of an annual parade that usually starts at the Place Gambetta and ends at Place de la Republique where a big street party commences. People in elaborate and extravagant outfits dance, play music and make merry till the early hours.

5. Confectionery during Mardi Gras

If you are a foodie or have the inevitable sweet tooth, the veritable spread of confectionery at every café will tempt you with its wide range of choices.Traditionally, Mardi Gras is a day for fatty foods. Master chefs whip up every kind of French donut available, from every region. Pancakes, crepes, waffles and donuts are available everywhere. Each region of France has its own version of the treats. Les beignets or donuts are beugnons in Le Berry, Fritelles in Corse, merveilles in Bordeaux and so on. the donuts come in a variety of flavors, made with lemon, orange blossoms or vanilla. They can have a filling of jam or chocolate too. The Limousin people eat prune pie made with brioche. 

You can follow this up with a penitent run along the Seine the next day.

Mardi Gras in France is the time to eat, drink, dress up and be merry. It is a celebration in excess, and that is why the enjoyment here is unparalleled.