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Celebrating Mardi Gras

To celebrate Mardi Gras, colorful parade floats travel down the crowded streets of New Orleans. Since today is Fat Tuesday it is important to know your Mardi Gras history.

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To celebrate Mardi Gras, colorful parade floats travel down the crowded streets of New Orleans. Since today is Fat Tuesday it is important to know your Mardi Gras history.

Summer Anderson, Staff Reporter

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Today, Febuary 13, is Fat Tuesday, the main day of celebration of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a worldwide celebrated tradition that dates back thousands of years, started by the Romans in the seventeenth century. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to make the Mardi Gras celebration a prelude to Lent, which is 40 days of fasting starting the day after and lasting until Easter. On March 2, 1699, French explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived 60 miles south of New Orleans and named the spot “Pointe du Mardi Gras” after the festive holiday, and the next day they celebrated with a festival. The French word  Mardi means Tuesday and Gras means fat, so the holiday is also known as  Fat Tuesday. In 1703 they celebrated America’s first Mardi Gras, and soon after New Orleans was established in 1718.

 In the 1730s,  Mardi Gras was an unofficial holiday in New Orleans, but it was not celebrated with the parties and parades we know today.  In the 1740s, Mardi Gras was celebrated with elegant society balls with lots of dancing and jazz music. By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street fairs with masks, carriages and horseback riders, and shiny gaslit torches. Each festival event led to excitement and romance for the people, especially with the dazzling floats and masked balls. In 1857, a secret society of businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of  Comus organized a torch-lit procession with marching bands and rolling floats. The businessmen declared the holiday official colors of green, purple and gold.  Purple stands for justice, gold for power, and green for faith. Since then the Krewes have been a crucial part of the annual Mardi Gras Celebrations in New Orleans. In 1875 Governor Warmouth signed the Mardi Gras Act making Fat Tuesday an official holiday in Louisiana.

 Louisiana is the only state with Mardi Gras as an official holiday. However, elaborate pre-lent festivals happen worldwide.  In Italy, tourists go to Venice’s Carnival, which dates back to the thirteenth century and is famous for its masquerade balls. In Canada, Quebec city hosts the giant Quebec Winter Carnival. In Denmark children dress up and gather candy similar to Halloween. “I don’t really celebrate Mardi Gras unless its in school by having class parties or wearing purple and green for spirit week, but I think the holiday is really fun,” said sophomore Brenna Carter.

 Even though, Fat Tuesday 2018 is today, Febuary 13, many places started celebrating last weekend or  even earlier, and the celebrations can last up to two weeks from now.  Make sure to wear your green, purple and gold today to celebrate Mardi Gras.

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Celebrating Mardi Gras