Mardi Gras Carnival Art / February 21, 2019 / Chris Burris
Characterized by costumes bright decorations and general merriment often induced by the consumption of alcohol the celebration came close to being banned several times during the 19th century but the formation of a social organization (krewe) by six men and the resulting Carnival Parade on the evening of Mardi Gras in 1857 rejuvenated and restructured the mayhem. Though the festivities were halted for the duration of the Civil War they resumed in full force upon its conclusion. New krewes have been formed continuously since the first parade and are added as space allows annually.
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 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.