Mardi Gras in New Orleans

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1. What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is known as Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday, in English. The days preceding and succeeding the actual day and the day of Mardi Gras calls for a lot of carnival-like celebrations around the world. It is also during this season; many countries host tourists from around the world where this day is not popularly celebrated. These celebrations begin on or after the Christian feasts and end before the day of Ash Wednesday. The word originated from French, Mardi is Tuesday, and Gros is fat and hence the "Fat Tuesday" translation. This is because people eat rich and fatty foods to signify the start of the fasting season of Lent. In the United Kingdom, it is also known as ‘Shrove’ Tuesday, which means "to confess." Mardi Gras traditions differ from country to country. The day of Mardi Gras can fall anywhere in the months of January, February or March.

2. The Origins of the Carnival and its Celebrations in New Orleans

The Carnival is a big part of the Mardi Gras celebrations. Its origin can be traced into medieval Europe, from going through Rome and Venice and then to France. During that time, a French-Canadian explorer discovered a plot of ground somewhere south of New Orleans, and aptly called the place as "Pointe du Mardi Gras." This was because he and his men soon realized that it was the day of Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. "Fort Louis de la Louisiane" was established by him, which was the first known establishment that started the celebrations. 

New Orleans was established in the year 1718 by the same explorer. By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was commonly celebrated in New Orleans in somewhat a more straightforward manner than the way it is celebrated today. New Orleans held street processions filled with dazzling displays of masked people and dancers, all showing the extravaganza that was the carnival. There was literally everything that one would want to behold; from gaslight torches which lit the way, dazzling floats and masked balls. The newspapers announced Mardi Gras events in advance and printed pictures of the parades' elaborate and extravagant float designs. The colors of the carnival celebrations were purple, green and gold. These were the colors that stuck around because when they were first introduced as the color theme of the carnival to honor the Russian Tsar and his family, they marked the lifelong tradition of earmarking the colors for the festival.

3. Food in Mardi Gras

Pancakes are a traditional food during the celebrations of Mardi Gras. Along with pancakes, Pastries and bakery goods made with rich substances are also traditionally consumed keeping with the tradition of eating fatty foods. Every Mardi Gras cuisine differs from region to region and from country to country. In Sweden, a traditional cardamom scented pastry is consumed, which is known as semla, which is topped with whipped cream and is filled with almond paste. The other food items consumed are Crayfish, or crawfish, or crawdads, are a favorite for New Orleans, Shrimp, and Grits, Creole Crab Cakes, Shrimp and Chicken Etouffee, Pancakes, Dirty Rice, Milk Punch, Red Beans, and Rice. A custom drink known as Ojen, Aniseed liqueur, is widely consumed during the Mardi Gras period. Jambalaya is a classic Mardi Gras dish of rice, meat, and vegetables. It is widely consumed during Mardi Gras traditions. A great desert which is widely consumed is King cake. It is a round and delicious cinnamon pastry which always hides inside it a plastic baby doll, which is supposed to signify baby Jesus. It is said that anyone who finds Jesus is considered to be lucky. 

4. Tourism during Mardi Gras

Tourists from all over the world flock to New Orleans to celebrate this tradition, which dates from French Catholic influence in the early 1700s. The carnival is marked by masked and costumed citizens who parade through the city on impressive floats tossing throws into the crowds. The festival marks an end of long season of fun and frolic with a lot of events organized to keep the tourists engrossed all day long. There are scores of parades which are extremely important and very famous. There are amazing parades such as Pleasure Club and Zulu Social Aid parade that paint exquisite and unique coconuts by hand. The highlight of the carnival is the parade of Krewe of Rex . It is the king of the carnival! There are also scores of ethnic tribes of Indians native to Mardi Gras, they are all dressed in ethnic and traditional costumes bringing together the African, North American and other local cultures. The routes going through Central City and Treme are extremely popular venues to witness the parades filled with colorful headdresses. At the parade organized by St. Anne Society, visitors get to witness some of the most authentic and fantastic costumers of Mardi Gras. This parade goes through the locations of Marigny and Bywater. 


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