Happy Mardi Gras! You may know that Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” and that “Laissez les bons temps rouler” is a Cajun French phrase that translates to “Let the good times roll!” But here are a few fun facts about Mardi Gras that you may not know.
* Thank Pope Gregory XIII for adding the event to the calendar (yup, the Gregorian calendar) in 1582on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent, the 40 days of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter Sunday.
* Another name for Mardi Gras is “Shrove Tuesday.” The word “shrove” comes from the “shrive,” which means “to confess.” Going to confession is an unofficial practice of Catholics prior to starting the 40-day spiritual journey of Lent.
* International names for Mardi Gras include: Martes de Carnaval in Mexico, Fastan in Sweden, Martedi Grasso in Italy, J’Ouvert in Trinidad and Karneval in Germany.
* Like many holidays we celebrate today, the festivities arise from pagan tradition. Feasting and masquerades, which are important parts of today’s Mardi Gras celebrations, were also parts of the ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia, according to Huffington Post.
* It wouldn’t be Fat Tuesday without purple, gold and green beads, but how did those colors come to be symbolic of the holiday? TheInternational Business Times reports that the King of the first daytime carnival in 1872 selected those colors based on their associated meaning, and he would toss them to people he thought fit that meaning.
Purple = justice
Gold = power
Green = faith
* New Orleans was not the first American city to host a parade for the occasion. That was Mobile, Alabama. Louisiana is where the celebration originated in North America, though, and for that, we can thank France for sending the LeMoyne brothers in 1699 to defend France’s claim in Louisiana, as they brought the holiday with them.
* New Orleans held its first Mardi Gras parade in 1837. Floats appeared 20 years later.
* Masks are a fun part of Mardi Gras, but if you’re riding on a float, don’t leave home without one. It is illegal to ride on a Mardi Gras parade float in New Orleans without wearing a mask!
* Mardi Gras may be the day before Lent, but it also marks the end of Carnival season, which begins January 6.
* It is also known as Pancake Day or Paczki Day! So, whether you load up on pancakes or colored beads, go out and make it a marvelous Mardi Gras!