Welcome to the Carnival

Courtesy+of+www.onwardreserve.com

Courtesy of www.onwardreserve.com

Throw on some beads and call it a blast. Full of feathered costumes, music, parades, and festivities, Mardi Gras is deemed “the world’s biggest party” by Forbes.

Courtesy of www.onwardreserve.com
Courtesy of www.onwardreserve.com

The season of Mardi Gras is celebrated globally under several different names. In Switzerland, the holiday is known as Fastnachi, and in Brazil it is called Carnaval. Despite these different titles, all nations celebrate for up to two months each year, beginning January 6 with the Epiphany and culminating on  the actual day of Mardi Gras, translated from French as Fat Tuesday. Immediately followed by Ash Wednesday, the end of Mardi Gras marks the beginning of the Lenten season.  

According to mardigrasneworleans.com, Mardi Gras has been celebrated since medieval Europe, but arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana with French-Canadian explorer Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville in 1699. He discovered land just south of New Orleans, naming it Pointe du Mardi Gras, and established Fort Louis de la Louisiane, a town now known as Mobile. The United States celebrated its first Mardi Gras in 1703 in Mobile, Louisiana.
Once New Orleans was established in 1718, the celebration continued to grow. The celebration came to be known as Carnival in 1781, and by the 1830s, the streets of New Orleans were filled with parades and festivities in honor of Mardi Gras.
The Superstar Steppers perform in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Louisiana to celebrate the holiday.  Ellie Denson '15
The Superstar Steppers perform in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Louisiana to celebrate the holiday.
Ellie Denson ’15

Today, celebrators adorn themselves in purple, green, and gold, yet most are unaware that these colors were first chosen by a fictional character Rex, the “King of Carnival.”  According to neworleansonline.com, a group of young men founded a New Orleans Carnival krewe called the Rex Organization in 1872 and invented Rex to serve as an international symbol of the festivities. Rex is allegedly responsible for choosing the holiday’s colors in 1892. 
“Purple stands for justice, green for faith, and gold for power,” due to their Catholic roots, according to mardigrasneworleans.com.
To celebrate, people also wear masks, long strands of beads, and feathers as they ride through town on floats, throwing necklaces, doubloons, and toys. It is illegal for float-riders to participate in the celebration without a mask. 
The celebration and feasting is an opportunity for people to indulge before abstaining during the 40 days of Lent.
– Alana Galloway, Staff Writer