Everything you need to know about Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras has been booming in the US since the 17th Century and hasn’t missed a single year since. Most famously known for the insane parties, bright colors, and excessive amount of alcohol consumption, this Holiday’s true meaning is widely overlooked by most party-goers.
Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday, is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday with represents the first day of lent, most celebrated the Tuesday before the 40 day long fast with one last wild night with no restraint. First, I’ll list some fun facts about the famous Holiday, then I’ll wrap it up with explanations of the art and traditions which it carries. Enjoy!
THE OFFICIAL COLORS OF MARDI GRAS ARE PURPLE, GOLD, AND GREEN
Purple for justice, gold for power, and green stands for faith.
THE FIRST NEW ORLEANS MARDI GRAS PARADE WAS 177 YEARS AGO
The first celebration of the New Orleans Fat Tuesday was 1835.
MASKS ARE REQUIRED BY LAW FOR FLOAT RIDERS
If you ride a float, make sure you’re wearing a mask. If not, you may find yourself in some legal trouble!
MARDI GRAS IS A STATE HOLIDAY IN SOME PLACES
Fat Tuesday is an official state holiday in Alabama, (the home of the first Mardi Gras parade and 2nd biggest current celebration), Florida, and parts of Louisiana. Although it’s not a state holiday in Texas, Galveston is home to one of the biggest celebrations in the country!
Explanation of some Fat Tuesday traditions and art.
The Wearing Of Masks
Masks are an integral part of Mardi Gras culture. During early Mardi Gras celebrations hundreds of years ago, masks were a way for their wearers to escape class constraints and social demands. Mask wearers could mingle with people of all different classes and could be whomever they desired, at least for a few days.
As I stated earlier, in New Orleans, float riders are required by law to have a mask on. On Fat Tuesday, masking is legal for all Mardi Gras attendees – although many storeowners will post signs asking those entering to please remove their masks first.
The Flambeaux Tradition
Flambeaux, meaning flame-torch, was the tradition of people carrying shredded rope soaked in pitch through the streets so that nighttime revelers could enjoy festivities after dark. They were originally carried by slaves and free African Americans trying to earn a little money. Crowds tossed coins at the torch carriers for lighting the way for the floats.
Today, flambeaux carriers have turned the tradition into something of a performance. Torch bearers dance and spin their kerosene lights – something the original parade planners didn’t intend.
Rex, The King of Carnival
Every year in New Orleans, a king is crowned. His name is Rex, the king of the Carnival, and he first ascended to the throne in 1872. History has it that the very first Rex was actually the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia who, upon a visit to the U.S., befriended U.S. Army officer George Armstrong Custer during a planned hunting expedition in the Midwest.
The Duke’s visit to Louisiana was organized by New Orleans businessmen looking to lure tourism and business to their city following the devastating American Civil War.
Every year, the Rex Organization chooses a new Rex, always a prominent person in New Orleans. He is given the symbolic Key to the City by the Mayor.
The Throwing Of Beads
The tradition of bead throwing starts with their original colors. The color of the beads was determined by the king of the first daytime Carnival in 1872. He wanted the colors to be royal colors – purple for justice, gold for power and green for faith. The idea was to toss the color to the person who exhibited the color’s meaning.
The beads were originally made of glass, which, as you can imagine, weren’t the best for tossing around. It wasn’t until the beads were made of plastic that throwing them really became a staple of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
So, if you’re headed down to New Orleans or even just your local Fat Tuesday celebration, remember to follow the rules, know the traditions, and party hard! March is a big month as far as holidays go, so don’t forget to keep up with Let’s Gogh Art’s upcoming events and holiday articles! You can see public events on our RSVP page, or book your own custom party on our Host a Party page. Thank you for reading and have a happy and safe Mardi Gras!
- Michele Manjarrez