Who is ready for Mardi Gras? Mardi Gras Day is on February 21, 2012 this year, and Tuesday is the Mardi Gras time as”Fat Tuesday” (the french meaning of Mardi Gras) celebrates the final day before Ash Wednesday, which signals the start of the Lenten season for Catholics and Christ-followers. The term Mardi Gras dates to 1699, according to New Orleans website. It all began when French explorer Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur D’Iberville set up camp on the west bank of the Mississippi and, knowing the date was historic back home, he christened the site Point du Mardi Gras. The festivities began in the late 1700s in New Orleans, when pre-Lenten balls and other activities began. The masked balls begun by the French were, sadly, outlawed by the Spanish when they came into power in the region. They were not seen again until 1823, when the Creole population persuaded the American governor to allow them. Other festivities were reintroduced in 1827.
The first documented parade happened in 1837, when masked revelers walked through the city. Things really got going in 1857 when six men from Mobile, Ala., formed a group named Comus and coined the term “krewe,” with which any student of Mardi Gras is familiar: Krewes are the groups that hold the many parades that make their way through the city’s streets during Mardi Gras season. (You can’t expect something this big to be confined to one day, can you?) These days, more than 50 krewes hold parades and balls. Begun as secret societies, they now must open their memberships to everyone.
Mardi Gras has been celebrated nearly every year, including 2006, the year after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The parties and parades survived World Wars I and II, although each stopped events for a couple of years. Krewes have come and gone, and many traditions have sprung up. We’re all familiar with what tradition says women have to do if they want krewe members to throw trinkets – including necklaces in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green and coconuts (yes coconuts) – from floats.
New Orleans isn’t the only city to celebrate.