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Mardi Gras Facts

Mardi Gras Carnival Art / February 19, 2019 / Chris Burris.

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I m still working off that hangover. Winding Down With Rex and Comus After all the revelry of the Carnival season and the events leading up to it Mardi Gras night has become a sacred "restful" institution in my house. Like a runner who has passed the finish line of a massive marathon I offer those weary exhausted souls one last hoorah before Ash Wednesday begins. With a huge pot of red beans and rice multiple boxes of Popeye s Chicken ("Ain t no pawty like a popeyes pawty y all") and the last remaining crumbs of king cake my "tribe" gathers at 7pm on Mardi Gras night for the viewing of The Rex/Comus Ball on WYES. (*details of the Rex/Comus drinking game will not be discussed in this article. Thanks ~Mr. Credo).

The traditional Mardi Gras King cake is thought to have been derived from this need to use up perishable items. Today Carnival and Mardi Gras are celebrated in many different fashions. Some only celebrate on the actual Tuesday before Ash Wednesday while others take full advantage of the time and attend many luncheons masked balls and parades. Parades are generally the highlight for the majority of those who observe Mardi Gras and though Mobile and New Orleans have the biggest and oldest celebrations many other communities all along the Gulf Coast are forming their own societies.

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In honor of the celebration that he knew was taking place in France on that very day he named the spot Point du Mardi Gras. As more settlers arrived from France the customs that they had practiced there slowly began to take shape into what we now know as Mardi Gras. As popular as Mardi Gras has become in the United States most people only know half of the Mardi Gras tradition. While many know that the celebration is related to Lent what many do not know is that it is also related to Christmas. Carnival as the actual season is known begins on the same date every year. Only the actual date of Mardi Gras changes. This date to kick of the Carnival season is January 6. The date is also referred to as 12th night.

It is the twelfth day of Christmas the Epiphany and celebrates the day that the three wise men found and worshipped the baby Jesus. In communities where Carnival is observed Epiphany marks the beginning of the season and the last day is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday Mardi Gras day. The word Carnival is taken from the Latin and is literally translated as "farewell to the flesh". The Carnival season is time of merriment and brief season of feasting before the somber time of Lent. Some experiments have reasoned that the custom actually began as a way to use any meat eggs and milk before Lent began so that no items were left to waste during the forty day long fasting period.

The parades in New Orleans now begin up to three weeks before Mardi Gras with the Carnival season officially starting on the January 6th the Feast of Epiphany. The French Quarter of the city is the heart of the celebration which concludes promptly at midnight on Mardi Gras with the police asking revelers to scatter and the massive clean up getting under way. The krewe system was originally a hierarchical method that showcased the elite of the Carnival and usually New Orleans society. However in the latter part of the 20th century the exclusivity of the krewes was tempered by the formation of new more democratic krewes for which no credentials were required.


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