Mardi Gras means fat Tuesday, the culmination of the season between Christmas and Lent. Fat Tuesday falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. During the 46-day Lent period, many Christians forego the eating of meat, either completely or on Fridays. They also traditionally give up a favored food, drink, or habit. Fat Tuesday is a last chance party excuse before a six-week period of abstinence, and residents of New Orleans, Louisiana, are famous for their Mardi Gras celebrations and parades.
Mardi Gras history begins in 1699, when it was brought to the United States by a French explorer named Iberville. The French had celebrated this holiday since the middle ages. The tradition of masked festivals during Mardi Gras was popular in New Orleans while it was ruled by the French. However, when the US took possession of the city the tradition was banned until 1823 when the large Creole population convinced the government to allow the masked holiday.
Mardi Gras history hit a snag again in then 1840’s and 50’s when it was banned once again due to the negative reputation that surrounded it. Then in 1857 the Comus organization was formed and Mardi Gras was once again allowed. Then in 1872 the “king of Carnival” tradition began and the colors purple, green, and gold became the official colors of the parade.
Mardi Gras history was put on hold again in 1918 and 1919 when the US was involved in World War One. The celebration was weak during the 1920’s and 30’s when the country suffered through the Great Depression and Prohibition.
Mardi Gras thrived during the 1940’s, though it was canceled during the years of war again. Since then the popularity of Mardi Gras has been on the rise. Every year thousand of tourists travel to New Orleans to take part in the celebration, involving masks, beads, parades, liquor, and music.
What’s the difference between Cajun and Creole food?
New Orleans is famous for Cajun and Creole foods, so it’s no wonder that those who celebrate Mardi Gras concentrate on these foods for their Fat Tuesday parties. What’s the difference between Cajun and Creole foods? This is a question that is hotly debated. The two cuisines are confusingly intertwined and defy definition. Famous chef, restauranteur, and author Paul Prudhomme, father of the blackening technique, makes an attempt to differentiate the two. He describes Cajun food as country cooking, whereas Creole food is more elegant and sophisticated, city cooking so to speak.
King Cake history and tradition
No Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a King Cake, also known as Twelfth Night Cake. This cake is actually a sweetened yeast bread, usually baked in a ring shape. The cake is frosted with gold, green, and purple icing representing in order, power, faith, and justice. The traditional colors on the King Cake date back to 1872. They were taken from a prominent parade group, called a krewe.Although this cake is colorful and tasty, the real fun hides within the cake.
The maker of each King Cake hides a token in the cake. The tokens used are a dried red bean or a figurine of a baby, representing the Christ child. When the cake is cut and shared, the finder of the hidden treasure is said to enjoy good luck for the coming year. The lucky recipient may also be expected to bake the King Cake or throw the Mardi Gras party for the following year.
As they say in New Orleans, Laissez les bon temps rouler, or Let the good times roll!