Music, parades and beads, oh my! Mardi Gras is just around the corner on February 12th, and we are here to help you celebrate the season. Whether you are a Mardi Gras veteran or have always dreamed of attending, here are 10 fun facts to get you into the spirit.
- Mardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday” in French because it is the last day to indulge before the fasting of Lent season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.
- Mardi Gras was originally brought to Louisiana by French settlers. The first recorded celebration of the holiday was March 3, 1699.
- The traditional colors of Mardi Gras (purple, green and gold) were originally chosen by Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovitch Romanoff of Russia. Say that three times fast! No one knows for certain why he selected these colors, but it has been speculated that he chose them because they reflect a royal tone. In 1892 the parade theme was “The Symbolism of Color,” and it was then that the colors received their significance. Purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold represents power.
- The parade tradition of throwing items to the crowds started in the 1870s by the Twelfth Night Revelers and is one of the most famous traditions of Mardi Gras. Don’t forget to shout “Throw me something, mister!”
- Krewes, which are parade groups, originally started as private social clubs, and each have their unique history and theme. The oldest parading krewe is the Krewe Rex, which was founded in 1872.
- Millions of cups and toy coins known as “doubloons” are decorated with krewe logos and thrown to parade-watchers. Some “throws” are especially prized: only the luckiest folks manage to take home the hand-decorated coconuts from the Krewe of Zulu.
- The Krewe of Rex, known as “the king of carnival,” was conceived primarily to celebrate the arrival of the grand duke of Russia. The duke’s mistress and lover at the time, an American actress named Lydia Thompson, sang a song entitled “If Ever I Cease To Love You.” Coincidentally, this was the duke’s favorite song, so all the bands in the Rex parade were asked to play it. This song became, and still remains today, the official song of Mardi Gras.
- The King Cake is a cinnamon-roll like cake that is synonymous with Mardi Gras. The cake has a small item (usually a plastic baby) hidden inside, and tradition says that the person who “finds” the baby will be rewarded with good luck for the next year. That person also is responsible for bringing the King Cake to next year’s celebration.
- There will be a total of 63 parades during New Orleans Mardi Gras! Check out the complete parade schedule here.
- 10. The Mardi Gras slogan is “Laissez les bons temps rouler,” which means “Let the good times roll!”
Now go put on your purple, green and gold, get a big slice of King Cake, pour yourself a big cup of Community coffee, and join us in celebrating one of our favorite holidays. Laissez les bons temps rouler!