On February 27, 1827, a group of masked and costumed students danced through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, marking the beginning of the city’s famous Mardi Gras celebrations. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about Mardi Gras...
Alabama Held the First Mardi Gras Celebration Contrary to popular belief, the festival didn’t actually begin in New Orleans, but rather in present-day Mobile, Alabama. The first Mardi Gras occurred when French explorer brothers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville were camped on the Gulf Coast in 1699. Realizing it was Mardi Gras, March 2, they named the spot Point du Mardi Gras. Bienville became the founder of New Orleans and Mobile—where the first American Mardi Gras celebration is said to have been established in 1703. To this day, Mobile puts on a huge festival for Mardi Gras.
The Date of Mardi Gras Changes Every Year Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans originated during the French colonial rule of Louisiana, and its roots are tied to the traditions of the Catholic Church. Celebrated on the last day of Carnival season, Mardi Gras signals an end of indulgence and beginning of observed austerity during Lent, which begins the following day on Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday comes 47 days before Easter, the date of which changes every year, too.
Mardi Gras Colors are Purple, Gold and Green Mardi Gras is associated with beads, of course, and every year, crowds line up on Bourbon Street in order to try and get themselves some beaded necklaces. What you might not have known, though, is that the purple, green and gold beads represent justice, faith and power, respectively. And in keeping with the celebratory and generous spirit of Mardi Gras, a person is allowed to pick up as many beads as their neck can hold
Mardi Gras Is a Legal Holiday Despite the preponderance of what might “seem” like illegal activity, Mardi Gras is a legal holiday in Louisiana, and has been since 1875, when Governor Warmoth signed the “Mardi Gras Act.”
Floats and Marching Bands Were Added to Mardi Gras Around 1857 In 1856, the first floats and marching bands appeared in Louisiana, around 60 miles from New Orleans. The floats were built by the Mistick Krewe of Comus. There are many more krewes now and they are a popular part of Mardi Gras festivities. Other customs of the celebration include tossing strings of beads, elaborate costumes and masks and, of course, eating King cake, which has a small plastic baby inside. The person who gets the baby in their slice of cake is expected to throw the next party.