Mardi Gras Day is celebrated the day before the Christian season of Lent begins, and its festive atmosphere deliberately contrasts with the sombre mood of the following 40 days.
|2019||5 Mar||Tue||Mardi Gras Day||AL & LA|
|2020||25 Feb||Tue||Mardi Gras Day||AL & LA|
Mardi Gras Day is a public holiday in the state of Louisiana, in Mobile and Baldwin Counties, Alabama, as well as in certain parts of Florida. Additional observances are also held in cities throughout the U.S., and Mardi Gras has national holiday status in 18 countries worldwide.
The date of Mardi Gras Day varies somewhat from year to year, ranging from around February 10th to March 5th. Also known as “Shrove Tuesday,” Mardi Gras falls on the last day before the traditional 40-day fast of Lent, the first day of which is known as “Ash Wednesday.” Because of the feasting and partying that go on, Mardi Gras is also sometimes called “Fat Tuesday.”
Mardi Gras was introduced in the United States by French Catholic colonists, the first celebrations occurring in 1703 in Mobile, while the town was still under French control. In 1840, the tradition of having Mobile Mardi Gras parades began, and in 1857, the tradition spread to New Orleans. Though interrupted by the Civil War, Mardi Gras revived soon thereafter and has continued ever since.
Should you find yourself in Louisiana or Alabama during the Mardi Gras season, some activities to take part in include:
- Attend any of the numerous Mardi Gras masquerade parades in New Orleans. Parades begin two weeks before Mardi Gras Day itself, but the final five days are most intense. During the last week, parades occur not only in New Orleans but throughout Louisiana. There will be street dancing, “prizes” disbursed in parade throws, and masquerade balls. While in town, also take time to notice the historic architecture in the French Quarter and along Saint Charles Avenue. Many buildings date from the 1700’s and 1800’s.
- Attend parades in Mobile, some of them starting as early as January. You will see many unique floats and hear the sound of the marching bands as the procession passes along the crowd-lined streets. Also in Mobile, tour the Mobile Carnival Museum, which has exhibits covering the 300-year history of Mardi Gras celebrations in the city.
- Be sure to eat some “Mardi Gras food,” such as king cakes. If you get a king cake with either a toy or pecan hidden in its center, the tradition is that you become king of that year’s Mardi Gras celebration. Also, waffles and crepes are traditional this time of year since people used to finish off their supply of milk, eggs, and butter before banned by Lent on Shrove Tuesday.
Mardi Gras is a holiday with a religious background but that has largely become simply a “big party” to most. Provided you go to the right locations, there are abundant U.S. Mardi Gras events to take part in.