Mardi Gras may just be the best party Christianity ever adopted.
Sure the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Mardi Gras is beads, babes and Bourbon Street, but the tradition actually has closer ties to faith than festivities. The tradition of Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of fertility.
According to History.com, “When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.”
In France the term Ash Wednesday became Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, and is also well known as, Carnival. To be technical, Carnival is a season, kicking off every year on January 6 to celebrate the Feast of Epiphany. Mardi Gras is only the day, Tuesday.
Around the world the pre-lent celebrations are observed in highly populated Roman-Catholic areas including Brazil’s Carnival, Venice’s Carnevale and Germany’s Karneval.
Things didn’t kick off in New Orleans until French settlements began to spring up in the mid 1800’s. While other cities may celebrate the same holiday, Mardi Gras is all its own, with unique traditions and not-to-be-missed festivities. Here are five things every Mardi Gras reveler must do to make their celebration complete.
1. Beads beads beads- While beads come in every shape, size and color, your best bet is to find a few purple, green, and gold strands. The colors have special significance to the Mardi Gras celebrations representing, justice, faith, and power respectively. Don’t pick up beads from the ground. Though you will be tempted to have a huge collection, it is bad luck to take them from the ground.
2. Know the lingo- Understanding what a Krewe is (and how to spell it) is key to feeling like an insider at Mardi Gras. A Krewe is a group or organization that puts on the different parades and parties around New Orleans. Krewes range from the hyper-exclusive, which only allow relatives and descendants of other members in, to ultra-inclusive allowing anyone who can build a float and pay a small free to join.
3. Taste a hurricane- While one may be tempted to imbibe in just about anything during Mardi Gras, make sure to stop and enjoy at least one Hurricane, the traditional drink of the festivities in New Orleans. The concoction consists of two ounces amber rum, passion fruit juice, sugar, grenadine and lime.
4. Spice up your dinner- Before heading out to collect your beads, make sure to fill up on Jambalaya. Traditionally Jambalaya is made up of sausage, chicken, onions, peppers, garlic, cayenne pepper, tomato paste, shrimp and rice, but families all over Louisiana will say their special “something” adds the right touch to make Jambalaya perfection.
5. Eat a King Cake- Finish off your festivities with dessert. The King Cake honors the night the Wise Men visited Christ Child. Inside each King Cake is a small coin, bean, or baby figurine. Whoever is the lucky recipient of the baby in their cake is the “King”. The prize is really in titled only, and the King must buy the first King Cake the following year. According to MardiGrasDay.com, the traditional cake is made up of flour, nutmeg, lemon zest, milk, eggs, cinnamon and butter, but can be adapted to include fruit and other fillings.
Enjoy all the gluttony on Mardi Gras. Just make sure to give it all up the next day for Lent.
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