Mardi Gras: From Beads to Cakes, What You Need to Know
I love Mardi Gras season. In the past it signified the beginning of crawfish season but I have since discovered that I can get crawfish as early as November if I am willing to travel south. I went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans a few years ago. Twice actually. It was a lot of fun. One trip was what I call the "Parade Route" because the entire 4 days was spent going to parade after parade.
We started hitting parades in Baton Rouge on the way to New Orleans. That is where I first encountered the King Cake. YUM!
The next trip to New Orleans was all about seeing the downtown festivities and oh what an experience that was. I have many photos to remind me of the crazy antics and costumes. I've shared a few of the clean photos with you in this blog--only the safe ones!
I am a paralegal by training and by nature. I must research everything and have all of the answers before embarking on any trip. Here is some of the information I discovered about Mardi Gras from beads to cakes.
The term "Mardi Gras" is a French expression meaning "Fat Tuesday." Mardi Gras season starts on January 6 and runs through March 8 this year. Fat Tuesday is the last day of the Mardi Gras celebration which is the last Tuesday before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. You do not need to be Catholic to celebrate Mardi Gras.
Beginning of Mardi Gras: January 6 is always the first day of the celebration. Mardi Gras begins twelve days after Christmas. On the Christian calendar it is known as Epiphany, Twelfth Night or Kings Day.
Enough of the definitions, let's get down to the parades, beads, cakes and MORE.
Parades: The parades are a ton of fun to watch. The group or organization that puts the parades together and manages the floats is known as the "krewe." Every year each krewe chooses a different theme as well as a king and a queen.
Beads: The beads resemble jewels that royalty would wear in medieval times. The doubloons are coins that are stamped with the krewe's emblem and their theme for the year. Sometimes they throw cups, stuffed animals and other stuff. Be sure to take a bag if you go to a parade and be prepared to yell: "Throw me some beads mister!" Flashing is not required. Flashing is actually something that was introduced within the last decade during a Spring Break party.
King Cake: The traditional King Cake is made from twisted strands of cinnamon dough, topped with icing and sprinkled with purple, green, and gold colored sugar. My favorite has Bavarian cream inside the cake. Other yummy fillings are cream cheese, strawberry, apple and lemon. The King Cake is an oval cake made in honor of the three kings or wise men. The shape of a King Cake symbolizes the unity of faiths. A small baby is inserted in the cake and for most it symbolizes Baby Jesus. Whoever finds the Baby Jesus is supposed to have good luck and is also responsible for bringing the cake to next year's celebration.
The colors: The official colors for Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold. Purple represents justice; green stands for faith; gold stands for power. These colors were chosen in 1872 by the King of Carnival Rex.
Location: You can have a celebration anywhere. New Orleans is considered the main hub of Mardi Gras. One thought is that a Frenchman brought the celebration to America when he landed his ship in Louisiana in 1699 (before it was Louisiana). There are other theories of course. All of them point to the French as the source of our Mardi Gras celebrations.
You can actually watch the parades and craziness in New Orleans via street cameras. Be sure to turn on some Zydeco music for the full effect.
Other Facts: Carnival is the festive season which occurs immediately before Lent. Carnival means "farewell to meat." Fat Tuesday is always 46 days before Easter. The calculation is the total of the 40 days of Lent plus the six Sundays in that period (no abstinence on Sunday). Now you will always know when Fat Tuesday is. The carnivals represent the overindulgence for people about to go into Lent which is the period to give up the pleasures of the flesh. For most that means no meat. Others give up something they love. I had a friend that gave up chocolate for Lent. That was a tough 40 days for her.
I used various sources for this blog: New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau; Mardi Gras on the Net; Mardi Gras Day; Wikipedia and Mardi Gras. I did the research when I was preparing to go to New Orleans several years ago to celebrate Mardi Gras.
Here are more of my blogs about Mardi Gras: