Mardi Gras Carnival Art / February 22, 2019 / Francisca Mccarty
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.
After the founding of the Mystic Krewe of Comus in 1857 (and their nighttime torch-lit parade) the Krewe Of Rex established several key factors that would become staples for the entire Carnival tradition in 1872: the Mardi Gras flag the official colors of purple green and gold and the "royal anthem" of a song titled "If Ever I Cease To Love." In classic New Orleans style the song comes from a burlesque show entitled "Blue Beard" and features some of the craziest lyrics this side of a Christina Aguilera National Anthem performance: "If Ever I Cease To Love If Ever I Cease To Love/May cows lay eggs and fish grow legs If Ever I Cease To Love." Our very own Edward Branley recently told the fascinating story of how these insane lyrics have anything to do with Mardi Gras.
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.