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Long associated with the City of New Orleans, Mardi Gras - or "Fat Tuesday" - is the final day of Carnival, which begins on the Feast of the Epiphany, or January 6..

Also known as Three Kings' Day or Twelfth Night, January 6 celebrates the arrival of the three kings at Jesus' birthplace. Epiphany, consequently, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. In New Orleans and elsewhere, Carnival begins simultaneously.

The festival has its roots in various pagan celebrations of spring, dating back 5,000 years. Pope Gregory XIII made it a Christian holiday when, in 1582, he put it on his Gregorian calendar. He placed Mardi Gras on the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. That way, all the debauchery would be finished when it came time to fast and pray.

Much of the first part of the Carnival season in New Orleans is invitation-only coronation balls and supper dances hosted by private clubs known as krewes. The public portion comes to life a couple of weeks before Mardi Gras when the krewes hit the streets, staging more than 70 parades in metropolitan New Orleans. It is somestimes referred to as " the biggest free show on earth."


This is the time preceding Lent in the Christian calendar. In earlier times, all remaining meat and dairy products had to be consumed during this period, before the forty-day fast. The word carnival has some connection to carne or meat.

"Carnival, also known as Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras, is a day of ritual subversion. All the normal rules of society are turned upside down. You're allowed to get blind drunk, lift your shirt to passersby, rudely satirize public figures with parade floats - and that's only the mild version in New Orleans. In the middle ages, it was also time to openly mock your superiors with fake weddings, trials, even masses. Anything normally held sacred was ridiculed.

continued in Out of the Past

Cajun Country

If you want to make money, go to Wall Street. If you want to catch trout, try Montana. If you're ready to party, head for Cajun Country.

Other cultures have great food and music and dance, but no other ethnic group puts the three together with more spice and joie de vivre than the Cajuns.

"Laissez les bon temps rouler! Let the good times roll!"

continued at
Cajun Country

New Orleans Carnival

New Orleans’ Carnival celebration includes parades, parties and masquerade balls.
Parades bursting with music, floats and masks follow routes through uptown or midtown areas of the city, but not in the French Quarter due to its narrow streets and overhead structures. The parades are organized by krewes, or local clubs, whose members often ride on the floats, tossing “throws” to the onlookers.

King Cakes

A traditional Mardi Gras treat, King Cakes
are uusally decorated with purple, gold and green (Mardi Gras colors) icing or sprinkles. They are baked with a small trinket inside and the person who receives the prize must host a Mardi Gras party or provide the next King Cake.
Mardi Gras King Cake

Paczki (pronounced poonch-key) are sometimes referred to as the "Cadillacs" of doughnuts.

The word paczki (plural; singular is paczek) comes from the Polish word pak, which means "bud." Paczki are circular, like the buds on trees, and they also expand, or grow, when fried. They are fat, round, deep-fried rolls served either plain or filled with fruit or jelly, and then sugar coated. Properly made, they look like huge baseballs.

On Paczki Day, or Fat Tuesday (the last day of feasting before Lent), paczki lovers trek to their favorite bakeries for a taste of the sweet pastry. Before refrigerators, paczki were enjoyed as a last-minute fling and a way to use up perishables such as lard, eggs, and cream, which were prohibited during Lent.

Although paczki began as a Polish tradition and were brought to the Great Lakes region in the 1900s. their popularity has spread, and they are now a very trendy food served just once a year. Bakers work around the clock to make paczki for customers. Fans of paczki buy them throughout the week before Ash Wednesday, and they are especially popular on Fat Tuesday. They have crossed ethnic boundaries and are now loved by everyone.

Official Colors

The official colors for New Orleans' Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold. Purple represents Justice, Green represents Faith, Gold stands for Power. The colors were chosen by the King of the Carnival in 1873 and have stood as the colors since then.


According to some historians, Mardi Gras has its roots in a  mid-February Roman celebration known as Lupercalia which honored the god Lupercus, also known as the god of fertility, as well as the god of agriculture and pastoral shepherds. It is believed that these rituals and festivities welcomed spring’s arrival. 

Like other Roman and Greek festivals,
Lupercalia was adopted by the Catholic Church as a way to subtly convert pagans to Christianity.
In adapting the festival to its belief system, the excess and debauchery of Lupercalia festivities began to be seen as s prelude to Lent.

Beneath the Mask

Mardi Gras is a very decadent pagan festival, similar to the European tradition of Carnivale, where people wear masks and behave in uncharacteristic ways. The energy of these festivals lies between the between the realms of the mystical and the mundane, where we might meet another version of ourselves.

Get a basic mask from a craft store. Put it on and look at yourself in the mirror. Light a candle and turn of the lights. Continue to look at your reflection, especially your eyes. You may find you see some odd things, but let these images offer you insights into your true self.

When you feel ready, remove the mask. Your face will look slightly different, because you have glimpsed your hidden self and all the potential that lies within you.
Venetian Dark Masquerade Party Mask

The Courir de Mardi Gras

A traditional rural celebration dating back to the earliest days of settlement in Cajun Country,
the Mardi Gras "courir," or run, is a sort of moving pageant or chase held in many communities of south Louisiana on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Traditions vary from town to town, but most courir begin in the early morning as costumed participants gather at a central location. A designated Le Capitaine (leader of the Mardi Gras) explains the rules and traditions that must be followed. Some towns have riders on horseback, some ride on trailers and some walk or run on foot. Their mission, generally, is to
go through the countryside acquiring ingredients for a communal gumbo.

Live chickens are often chased through open fields. Some ingredients are begged from local farmers; others are scavenged or "stolen" in mock thievery. The courir usually ends with a feast at the end of the route.

Venetian Dark Masquerade Party Mask

Bulletin Board
Three Kings Day Carnival Parade
Three Kings Day Carnival Parade

Mardi Gras Mask
Mardi Gras Mask

Mardi Gras Murder Mystery: Bumped Off on Bourbon Street
Mardi Gras Murder Mystery
Bumped Off on Bourbon Street

Costumes and Masks
Costumes and Masks

Mardi Gras Mask Italian Charm
Mardi Gras Mask Italian Charms

Travel Magazines
Travel Magazines

King Cake Gift Pack
King Cake Gift Pack

Celebration Breads: Recipes, Tales, and Traditions
Celebration Breads: Recipes, Tales, and Traditions

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