Fat Tuesday
The term Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent). The arrival of Lent signals the start of a season of sacrifice and fasting in preparation for Easter. The name Fat Tuesday comes from the fact that the faithful would eat, drink and be merry before they committed to a season of fasting during Lent. Our modern day Mardi Gras celebration focuses more on the "eat, drink and be merry" part of the holiday with food, drinks and fabulous parades, but Mardi Gras' beginning is firmly rooted in religion and sacrifice.

Date of Mardi Gras
Ever wonder why the date for Mardi Gras changes each year? The origins of Mardi Gras explain it. Mardi Gras is an event that was originally celebrated, see Fat Tuesday above, to prepare for Lent. Lent is the season leading up until Easter. So, just as the date of Easter changes from year to year, so does the date for Mardi Gras (it is 46 days earlier). While Fat Tuesday changes each year, the Carnival season always begins on the Twelfth Night - January 6th. This date does not change and is set each year (see Twelfth Night, below.)

Future Dates of Mardi Gras

2013- February 12
2014- March 4
2015- February 17
2016- February 9
2017- February 28

The Mardi Gras Season
The term Mardi Gras is used to describe the entire season of Carnival, not just the single day of Mardi Gras Tuesday. Visitors in town for Mardi Gras may not ever see the final Tuesday of Mardi Gras, but  they will have experienced Mardi Gras nonetheless. In areas which celebrate Carnival, there are many balls, parties and parades during the Carnival season. Part of the fun is all the events leading up until the final day, Mardi Gras Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. In New Orleans, Carnival ends abruptly at midnight on Fat Tuesday. Anyone who has been on Bourbon Street Tuesday night can tell you. At the stroke of midnight the police arrive on horseback and in cars to clear the streets. Mardi Gras revelers head inside while the street sweepers come thru to wash away the Mardi Gras beads, garbage and dirt left behind in preparation for Lent. This symbolic closing, signals that Mardi Gras is officially over ....at least until next year.

The Colors of Mardi Gras: Purple, Green & Gold
While people around the world use a variety of shades in their decorations for carnival, Mardi Gras in Louisiana has official colors. Purple, Green & Gold (often abbreviated PGG or GGP) were established by Rex (the King of the Mardi Gras) in 1872. Twenty years later, the colors were assigned a symbolic meaning each one representing a different facet of Mardi Gras culture. Purple symbolizes justice, green stands for faith, and gold represents power.

Did you know? The phrase "Power, Faith and Justice" often written on Mardi Gras merchandise and parade floats comes from the symbolic meanings of the Mardi Gras colors.

Twelfth Night- Epiphany-Three Kings Day
Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas, celebrates the visit of the three kings or wise men to the Christ Child. This signifies the end of the Christmas season. And it ushers in the beginning of Mardi Gras season which will last until Mardi Gras day or Fat Tuesday! Many Krewes and Mardi Gras organizations have Twelfth Night events to celebrate the beginning of the Carnival Season.

King Cakes
With the arrival of Twelfth night and Carnival season, comes one of the most beloved and well know parts of Mardi Gras... KING CAKES. King Cakes are delicious cinnamon roll/coffee cake-like pastry with icing and sugar on top. A Louisiana style King Cake is oval in shape and can be plain or stuffed with yummy fillings like praline. There are variations on the toppings at well. Some prefer simple granulated sugar in the Mardi Gras colors, while other variations have drizzled icing. The cake has a small plastic "baby" inside it. The baby symbolizes baby Jesus, another reference to the religious aspect of Mardi Gras.

The start of Carnival season starts the cycle of King Cake parties. The person who receives the baby in their piece of cake is supposed to bring the next King Cake or host the next King Cake party. It is a fun tradition that people look forward to all year long. Offices, classrooms and homes around the south will repeat this tradition many times during Carnival Season.


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