Mardi Gras!

written by Jasmine Grace – High school Intern

Every year, millions flock to New Orleans in late winter to partake in the vibrant celebration of Mardi Gras. What many people don’t know is that Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to ancient Rome and is celebrated worldwide. This year, however, things were a bit different. New Orleans hosted no parades, but that didn’t mean the festivities were cancelled. Many decorated their houses as parade floats to celebrate in a safer way. The new twist on this ancient holiday was called ‘Yardi Gras.’

Decorated Houses

The origins of Mardi Gras lie in the ancient city of Rome. Celebrations in late winter were already a holiday, so when Christianity spread to the Empire, leaders decided to keep those festivals in place and incorporate the old into the new. This took the form of a huge celebration before Lent. As Roman influences and Christianity spread through Europe, they brought these festivals with them. They became known as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. 

Mardi Gras 2019

The beginnings of Mardi Gras as we know it in New Orleans is debated, but most can agree that the first celebration was in either present-day Louisiana or Alabama. French colonists celebrated their Mardi Gras with street parties, masquerade balls, and extravagant dinners. These festivities were banned during the Spanish rule of New Orleans, but made a comeback when Louisiana became a U.S. territory in 1812. 

There are a variety of traditions associated with Mardi Gras in New Orleans. These include throwing beads, wearing costume masks, eating King Cake, and hosting parades with incredibly decorated floats. Krewes are also a strong part of the celebrations. Krewes are social organizations that host a ball or put a float in a parade for Mardi Gras. Traditionally, these groups were strictly for men. But in 1941, the Krewe of Venus became the first women’s krewe to put on a parade. They met hostile crowds at first, some of whom even threw rotten vegetables at them. But these ladies were back at the next parade, and female krewes soon became a normal part of Mardi Gras. Soon more all-women krewes began to form. Then a number of krewes formed that were open to everyone. These krewes were instantly popular, and still are today.

Who wants King Cake Y’all?

Many places around the world, particularly those with large Roman Catholic populations, celebrate this holiday, though each place calls it by a different name and has its own unique traditions. In Brazil, Carnival blends African, native, and European cultures. The German celebration, called Karneval, Fastnacht, or Fasching, features parades and costume balls. It also includes a tradition in which women cut off men’s ties. Quebec City hosts the Winter Carnaval, famous for its ice sculptures. Venice is widely known for its masquerade balls and they call this holiday Carnivale. And in Denmark, children dress up in costumes and collect candy, similar to trick-or-treating on Halloween. 

Mardi Gras goes by many names, and is celebrated in many ways. And while 2021 has been different from our normal in many ways, Mardi Gras prevails.

Let the Good Times Roll!

Happy Mardi Gras!!

Mardi Gras is Here!

By: Samuel Ennis

FAC Intern – Saint Anselm College

Mardi Gras is Here!! Did you know that in Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a legal Holiday? In fact, it is the only state in the U.S. to declare it a legal holiday. That does not stop people all around the world, the U.S., and especially New Hampshire from celebrating this French holiday.

Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday has been traced to ancient holidays in Rome and Venice. However, in the 17th and 18th century, it passed to the French House of the Bourbons and quickly spread to French colonies. The holiday, as it is celebrated in the U.S., dates back to 1699, when French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived south of New Orleans in an area today known as Mobile, Alabama. He arrived on the eve of the holiday and prepared a celebration to occur the following day. The holiday was to celebrate the day before Ash Wednesday when Lent would begin. Giving something up for Lent is custom, and it was typical for people to give up rich and fatty foods like meat, eggs, milk, lard, and cheese. Knowing they would be without one of these items for the next 40 days, they had an elaborate celebration full of treats using these items. The holiday grew during the 1700s and 1800s adding masquerade balls, parades, carnivals, grand floats, and the throwing of beads to what many know today. When Louisiana went from French control to territory to U.S. State, the celebration of Mardi Gras defined its identity with people embracing it as a French custom.

For those of you not in New Orleans for the celebration, New England boasts many events as well during the month of March. Magic Hat Brewery in Burlington, VT hosts a festival during the end of March. Countless restaurants and bars in Boston such as Buttermilk and Bourbon host events as well. Rhode Island and Connecticut have their own events. The Franco-American Centre hosted a celebration and masquerade ball on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at Jupiter Hall in Manchester with Cajun food from Madear’s. The night was a blast and a great time to meet other members of the FAC and celebrate the festive holiday.

Be sure to show off your new knowledge of the holiday as you celebrate this March with the official slogan Laissez les bons temps rouler or in English, “let the good times roll.”