If you live in the Gulf area of the U.S. you’ve probably been celebrating Mardi Gras since November, but for the rest of us who observe the season it all boils down to today – the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
For those unfamiliar with the history, Mardi Gras – translated as “Fat Tuesday” and also sometimes called Shrove Tuesday – is a day of indulgence that precedes the confession and fasting of Lent for those of Christian faith.
Notably raucous celebrations in the U.S. are sunk deep in former French soil throughout Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, while many other countries like Brazil, Italy and Germany take the holiday to a level of debauchery so profound it can make a weaker Cajun blush.
Historians trace the origins of the celebration back thousands of years to Rome and the pagan festivals of Lupercalia and Saturnalia, which welcomed the fertility and life of the spring season. Rather than waste time trying to stamp out these annual shindigs, Roman Christians decided to weave them into Lenten observance – and thus the first hazy outline of Mardi Gras was born.
If you’re not the type who enjoys the fact that this excuse to party is now a part of our cultural tapestry, you can blame the French. While a few historians may dispute the celebration’s origin, no one really argues about who introduced this ruckus to the U.S. In fact, the parties got so loud back then that when the Spanish took over New Orleans in 1766 they banned the craziness.
Perhaps realizing that they couldn’t keep a lid on the party forever, the Spanish later signed a treaty returning the city to France in 1800, whereupon Napoleon sold it to the U.S as part of the Louisiana Purchase for chicken scratch – basically to spite Spain. It was only a short time later that the Mardi Gras tradition was revived.
Today, Louisiana is the only state in the Union that has declared Mardi Gras a legal holiday and they take the whole thing very seriously, with many once-secret societies (called "krewes") still organizing some of the most recognizable – and rowdy – events of the celebration.
<a href="http://www.atgstores.com/" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a> hopes you enjoy your Mardi Gras just the way you like it, whether it’s quietly at home or going dancing in the streets.