Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is commemorated on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. However what specifically is the definition of Mardi Gras and why carry out we celebrate? From its origins as a feather fertility rite come the masking balls of middle ages Italy to today’s famous Mardi Gras festival in new Orleans, learn around this fun and also fascinating holiday. 

When Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras, likewise called Shrove Tuesday, takes place every year on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday—the beginning of the Christian observance the Lent, i m sorry last about six weeks and also ends just prior to Easter. This way that Mardi Gras is a moveable holiday which have the right to take place in either February or March.

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In 2021, Mardi Gras will be commemorated on Tuesday, February 16.

Mardi Gras Dates

YearMardi Gras2021202220232024
Tuesday, February 16
Tuesday, march 1
Tuesday, February 21
Tuesday, February 13

What Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is the day prior to Ash Wednesday, when the Christian season of Lent begins. This day is additionally called Shrove Tuesday, a surname that comes from the exercise of “shriving”—purifying oneself with confession—prior to Lent. For plenty of Christians, Shrove Tuesday is a time to get penance and absolution.

You’ll periodically hear Mardi Gras described as “Carnival.” Technically, this term refers to the duration of feasting that begins on January 6 (the Feast of the Epiphany) and also ends on Mardi Gras. In cities such as brand-new Orleans (U.S.), Rio Janeiro (Brazil), and Venice (Italy), there are week-long festivals leading up to Mardi Gras.

In 2021, because of the COVID-19, over there won’t be any large parades reserved but, the course, Mardi Gras itself is not cancelled. After ~ all, it existed long before parades!

What go Mardi Gras Mean?

In French, Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday. (Mardi is the word for Tuesday and also Gras is words for fat.)

This name originates from the tradition of making use of up the eggs, milk, and fat in ones pantry since they were forbidden throughout the 40-day Lenten fast, which begins the next day (Ash Wednesday) and ends on holy Thursday (three days prior to Easter Sunday).

Therefore, a big component of Shrove Tuesday is eating an abundance of delicious fried food—especially donuts and Shrove Tuesday Pancakes! 

The word carnival also comes from this feasting tradition: in medieval Latin, carnelevarium method to take far or remove meat, native the Latin carnem for meat. Throughout Lent, Catholics traditionally gave up meat during the Lenten season and also mainly ate fish.

Pancake Tuesday

In England, wherein the job is additionally known as Pancake Tuesday, festivities incorporate flapjack-related activities. The pancake race held by ladies in Olney, Buckinghamshire, dates earlier to 1445. Legend claims that the idea started when a woman food preparation pancakes shed track the the time. As soon as she heard the church bells ring, she rushed the end the door to attend the shriving organization while still wearing she apron and also holding a skillet containing a pancake. 


Other cultures also cook up affluent treats and also fried foods.

Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, the Tuesday is dubbed Fastnacht (fast night), and also everyone enjoys the timeless fastnachtkuchen, a rectangle-shaped doughnut with a cleft in the middle.In Polish communities, the Tuesday is called “Paczki Day,” ~ the puffy jelly-filled doughnuts traditionally enjoyed.

Beignets spanned in powdered sugar

Short history of Mardi Gras

According to Laurie Wilkie, an archaeologist at the university of California at Berkeley, Mardi Gras “Carnival” celebrations started prior to Christianity as a pagan fertility festival. Part scholars believe it may have actually been connected to the old Roman pagan feast, Saturnalia, i beg your pardon honored the god of agriculture, Saturn. Various other research suggests there is no connection and the personalizeds may come from much older Indo-European spring lore and also perhaps the folklore the the Germanic and also Slavic races quite than from greek or Rome.

In any event, when Christianity arrived, roman pagan celebrations were absorbed into the religious calendar. The carnival techniques in Rome continued within the framework of the Church. The masked balls the Venice were especially reknown in Renaissance Italy and also spread come France and England. In France, lock were referred to as “les bals des rois” because that the kings who presided end the masking merrymaking. Whoever uncovered a coin or a bean in a item of distinct “king cake” (named for the Three queens of the nativity) was named king for the night.

In 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived in the new World about 60 miles straight south of new Orleans; he called this place “Pointe du Mardi Gras” as it to be the an extremely eve that the holiday. He likewise established “Fort luigi de la Louisiane” (which is currently Mobile, Alabama) in 1702. While new Orleans might be most recognized for Mardi Gras in the U.S. Today, the tiny negotiation of ft Louis de la Mobile celebrated America’s very first Mardi Gras in 1703.

Mardi Gras was commemorated in New Orleans shortly after the city’s starting in 1718. The an initial recorded Mardi Gras street parade in new Orleans took location in 1837. Currently a major metropolis, brand-new Orleans is the city most recognized for that is extravagent celebrations through parades, dazzling floats, masked balls, cakes, and drink.

I think that I might say that an American has actually not seen the United states until he has actually seen Mardi Gras in brand-new Orleans.–Mark Twain, American writer (1835–1910)


Mardi Gras Traditions

MasksThe masks are among the most well-known Mardi Gras traditions. It’s thought that masks during Mardi Gras allowed wearers to escape society and course constraints to mingle yet they wished. 

ParadesThe parades are organized by prestigious brand-new Orleans social clubs, or Krewes (pronounced “crews”). Each Krewe has actually its very own royal court and hosts parties and masked balls during Carnival Season, leading up to the parade.

Beads or Throws Krewe members ~ above floats litter beads and also trinkets to the parade-goers; the a legacy that goes back to the early on 1870s. The beads seem to be a nod to a king throwing jewel to his loyal topics as he overcome by on his carriage.

Purple, green, and goldThe colors of Mardi Gras were selected through the Krewe that Rex in 1872. Purple represents justice, eco-friendly represents faith, and also gold represents power.

King CakeOnly eaten during Mardi Gras, King cakes room a cross in between a French pastry and also a coffee cake, topped through icing and sugar in the Mardi Gras colors. They can be served on three King’s day (January 6) with the finish of Mardi Gras. A tiny baby (representing Jesus) is covert in the cake. Tradition says whoever gets the king cake item containing the baby is an alleged to carry out the king cake for the next gathering.

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In the soul of brand-new Orleans, try cooking up some great Cajun food for Mardi Gras, such together this soul-warming Jambalaya.

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Discover more about the background and heritages of this holiday on the City of brand-new Orleans’ Mardi Gras Website.