Mardi Gras History

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Mardi Gras King Cake, white frosting with purple, green, and gold sugarMardi Gras is a celebration with ancient roots. Some say that it’s associated with the Roman Saturnalia celebration, and was adopted by the early church fathers to entice the new converts. From there, the practices spread to Europe, where some other pieces of the Mardi Gras puzzle entered the picture, such as King Cakes. These are thought to be descendants of cakes that we handed out to the peasantry by the landed gentry upon horseback. Along with the cakes were coins and other trinkets- reminiscent of today’s parade throws.

The actual words “Mardi Gras” translate to “Fat Tuesday” and represent that last day for  excess before Lent begins. Mardi Gras or Carnival season itself starts every year on January 6th, also known as Twelfth Night or Epiphany- the 12th day of Christmas and the beginning of the days of frivolity that conclude on the eve of Ash Wednesday.

How Mardi Gras came to the new world remains a mystery, with several iterations of the story- one tale has the celebration brought to America in 1699 by Sieur d’Iberville, a French explorer who landed in what is modern Mobile, and named the area “Pointe du Mardi Gras”, as it was the eve of the holiday. Some hold that students home from studying in France dressed in costumes and paraded the streets of New Orleans in the early 1700s, which was embraced by the people of the city and became an annual ritual. Others say it simply came with the French settlers in what is now known as Louisiana.

mardi gras parade with float at night However it got here, it has never left! The celebration has evolved over the years, becoming a riotous frolic that lasts for two months or more, depending on the date of Easter each year. It’s even an official state holiday in Louisiana! Parades started really taking off in the early 1800’s. Krewes came along, with the introduction of floats (also know as “tableaux cars”- I think we should bring that back!), Krewes starting throwing trinkets from the floats, and the modern Mardi Gras parade was born. The floats have become more elaborate, as have the “throws”- and ladies, you do not have to flash your “assets” to get beads- just catch them! There are now over 70 krewes bringing the fun to the city with parades almost every day from February 15th until the Big Day.

The colorsclose up of purple, gold and green Mardi Gras beads of Mardi Gras are everywhere! They are Purple (justice), Green (faith), and Gold (power). They were adopted after the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff suggested them, based upon his family’s heraldic colors. The story goes that when LSU was picking colors for the university, the shops were full of Mardi Gras colors. LSU decided to use purple and gold, which left Tulane only the green!

We love our Mardi Gras guests and they appreciate our 24/7 free soft drinks, beer and wine as well as the delicious breakfast that soaks it all up, enabling them to party another day!

Larry Watts
Innkeeper, 1896 O’Malley House

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