Mardi Gras History

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Mardi Gras is a well loved holiday. It can be fun to look at the Mardi Gras history too!

We in America all think about Mardi Gras as part of New Orleans, but it is celebrated in other places in the United States, in France and in other parts of the world. As a matter of fact, carnival is very much associated with Venice. As a matter of fact, Mazatlan, Mexico claims the “third largest Mardi Gras in the world".

Mardi Gras History: Ancient Times

So Mardi Gras, or a similar celebration, was happening long before New Orleans came about.

As a matter of fact, the ancient Romans had a festival that many believe is the original basis for Mardi Gras. It was a festival called Lupercalia, which honored one of their gods, Lupercus.

As happened in many places, when Christianity arrived, old festivals and customs were adopted to a Christian theme, rather than doing away with the traditions. So the festival became a time of wild and unlimited behavior before Ash Wednesday and the start of the 40 days of Lent. Masks were often worn, even at this time.

Mardi Gras in the Middle Ages

The celebration spread across Europe. Some of the early records of Mardi Gras come from Venice (Italy) in 1268 and Nice (France) in 1294. As a matter of fact, in the U.K. a festival included having pancake feasts, and Shrove Tuesday is still know a “Pancake Tuesday” with festivals, games, and yes, you got it…pancakes!

More recently...

Although celebrated earlier, The first documented procession for Mardi Gras in New Orleans took place in 1837. In 1857 the first modern-styled parade, the Mystik Krewe of Comus, took place. Celebrations include parades with floats and costumed people and balls. The main colors of Mardi Gras were picked in 1872 and are purple (which means justice), green (which means faith) and gold (which means power).

History of Jazz Trivia


Mardi Gras, which means “Fat Tuesday” in French, is also known as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day and Dollar day.

More Info

Visit the New Orleans Convention and Visitor Bureau's website for a more detailed history of Mardi Gras.

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