Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras

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The terms "Mardi Gras" (icon), "Mardi Gras season", and "Carnival season", in English, refer to events of the Carnival
Carnival
Carnaval is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnaval typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party...

 celebrations, beginning on or after Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday, in the calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. It is a moveable fast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter...

. Mardi gras is French for "Fat Tuesday" (in ethnic English tradition, Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday is a term used in English-speaking countries, especially in Ireland, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Germany, and parts of the United States for the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of fasting and prayer called Lent.The...

), referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lent
Lent
In the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer – through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial – for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and...

en season, which begins on Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday, in the calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. It is a moveable fast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter...

. Related popular practices are associated with celebrations before the fasting and religious obligations associated with the penitential
Penitential
A penitential is a book or set of church rules concerning the Christian sacrament of penance, a "new manner of reconciliation with God" that was first developed by Celtic monks in Ireland in the sixth century AD.-Origin:...

 season of Lent
Lent
In the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer – through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial – for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and...

. Popular practices include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, etc. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition. In English, the day is called Shrove Tuesday, associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.

In many areas, the term "Mardi Gras" has come to mean the whole period of activity related to the celebratory events, beyond just the single day. In some US cities, it is now called "Mardi Gras Day" or "Fat Tuesday".
The festival season varies from city to city, as some traditions consider Mardi Gras the entire period between Epiphany or Twelfth Night
Twelfth Night (holiday)
Twelfth Night is a festival in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany and concluding the Twelve Days of Christmas.It is defined by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as "the evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the...

 and Ash Wednesday. Others treat the final three-day period before Ash Wednesday as the Mardi Gras. In Mobile
Mardi Gras in Mobile
Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama[pronounce] is the oldest annual Carnival celebration in America, having begun in 1703,over 15 years before New Orleans was founded ....

, Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, Mardi Gras-associated social events begin in November, followed by mystic society
Mystic society
A mystic society is a Carnival social organization, similar to a krewe in New Orleans, that presents parades and/or balls for the enjoyment of its members, guests, and the public. The term came to be used in this context in Mobile, Alabama. Mystic society membership is secret. The societies have...

 balls on Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Day is a holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Thanksgiving is celebrated each year on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. In Canada, Thanksgiving falls on the same day as Columbus Day in the...

, then New Year's Eve, followed by parades and balls in January and February, celebrating up to midnight before Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday, in the calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. It is a moveable fast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter...

. In earlier times parades were held on New Year's Day. Other cities famous for Mardi Gras celebrations include Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

, Brazil, Barranquilla
Barranquilla
Barranquilla is an industrial port city and municipality located in northern Colombia, near the Caribbean Sea. The capital of the Atlántico Department, it is the largest industrial city and port in the Colombian Caribbean region with a population of 1,148,506 as of 2005, which makes it Colombia's...

, Colombia, Port of Spain
Port of Spain
Port of Spain, also written as Port-of-Spain, is the capital of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the country's third-largest municipality, after San Fernando and Chaguanas. The city has a municipal population of 49,031 , a metropolitan population of 128,026 and a transient daily population...

, Trinidad and Tobago, Quebec City
Quebec City
Quebec , also Québec, Quebec City or Québec City is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and is located within the Capitale-Nationale region. It is the second most populous city in Quebec after Montreal, which is about to the southwest...

, Canada; Mazatlán
Mazatlán
Mazatlán is a city in the Mexican state of Sinaloa; the surrounding municipio for which the city serves as the municipal seat is Mazatlán Municipality. It is located at on the Pacific coast, across from the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula.Mazatlán is a Nahuatl word meaning...

, Sinaloa
Sinaloa
Sinaloa officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Sinaloa is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 18 municipalities and its capital city is Culiacán Rosales....

 in Mexico; and New Orleans, Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

, United States.

Carnival is an important celebration in Catholic European nations. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the week before Ash Wednesday is called "shrovetide", ending on Shrove Tuesday. It has its popular celebratory aspects as well. Pancakes are a traditional food. Pancakes and related fried breads or pastries made with sugar, fat and eggs are also traditionally consumed at this time in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean
Caribbean Carnival
Caribbean Carnival is the term used for a number of events that take place in many of the Caribbean islands annually.The Caribbean's Carnivals all have several common themes all originating from Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, based on folklore, culture, religion,and tradition, not on amusement...

.


Belgium


In the Belgian city of Binche
Binche
Binche is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut. On January 1, 2006 Binche had a total population of 32,409. The total area is 60.66 km² which gives a population density of 534 inhabitants per km²...

 the Mardi Gras festival is the most important day of the year and the summit of the Carnival of Binche
Carnival of Binche
The carnival of Binche is an event that takes place each year in the Belgian town of Binche during the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. The carnival is the most known of several others that take place in Belgium at the same time and has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the...

. Around 1000 Gilles
Gilles
The Gilles are the oldest and principal participants in the Carnival of Binche in Belgium. Other cities, such as Nivelles have a tradition of Gilles at carnival, but the Carnival of Binche is by far the most famous....

dance throughout the city from morning until past dusk, whilst traditional carnival songs play. In 2003, the "Carnival of Binche" was proclaimed one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
The Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity was made by the Director-General of UNESCO starting in 2001 to raise awareness on intangible cultural heritage and encourage local communities to protect them and the local people who sustain these forms of cultural...

 by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

.

Brazil



Carnaval is the most famous Brazilian holiday. During this time period Brazil attracts 70% of its tourists. Variations in carnaval celebrations are observed throughout the multitude of Brazilian cities. Yet, a commonality observed among them is the incorporation of samba
Samba
Samba is a Brazilian dance and musical genre originating in Bahia and with its roots in Brazil and Africa via the West African slave trade and African religious traditions. It is recognized around the world as a symbol of Brazil and the Brazilian Carnival...

 into the celebrations. The southeastern cities of Brazil have massive parades that take place in large sambadromes. The largest carnaval celebration
Rio Carnival
The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a world famous festival held before Lent every year and considered the biggest carnival in the world with two million people per day on the streets. The first festivals of Rio date back to 1723.-Samba schools:...

 in Brazil and the world occurs in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

, where two million people are found celebrating in the city. The city of Bahia also holds a large carnaval celebration.

Germany


The celebration of Mardi Gras in Germany is called Karneval, Fastnacht
Fastnacht
The Swabian–Alemannic Fastnacht is the pre-Lenten carnival in Alemannic folklore in Switzerland, southern Germany, Alsace and western Austria....

, or Fasching. Fastnacht means "Eve of the Beginning of the Fast", and is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday.

The most famous parades are held in Cologne
Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

, Mainz
Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

, and Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf is the capital city of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and centre of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region.Düsseldorf is an important international business and financial centre and renowned for its fashion and trade fairs. Located centrally within the European Megalopolis, the...

 on the Monday before Ash Wednesday, called Rosenmontag.

Italy


Carnevale is the traditional pre-Lenten celebration in Italy. Carnevale was Mardi Gras predecessor. The French borrowed this idea and made it popular. This is a time of merry-making, masquerade processions, masked balls, parades, pageants, jugglers, magicians, stilt walkers, elegant costumes and opulent masks, singing and dancing, fireworks, and outdoor feasts in the weeks prior to Ash Wednesday. The festivities of the last days of carnevale are the most intense as they culminate on Martedí Grasso (Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday). There are traditional foods and dolci (sweets) distinctively associated with carnevale, including fritelle, crespelle, sfingi, frappe, castagnole, cenci, nodi, chiacchere, bugie, galani, frittole, berlingaccio, sanguinaccio and tortelli, among others.

In Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 Mardi Gras is not the climax of Carnival, since the Carnival lasts four more days, ending on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday, in the calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. It is a moveable fast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter...

, because of the Ambrosian rite
Ambrosian Rite
Ambrosian Rite, also called the Milanese Rite, is a Catholic liturgical Western Rite. The rite is named after Saint Ambrose, a bishop of Milan in the fourth century...

. The last day of Carnival, therefore, is the "Sabato grasso" (Shrove or Fat Saturday).

Netherlands


The Netherlands also has a festival similar to Mardi Gras. It's called Carnaval
Carnival
Carnaval is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnaval typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party...

 and is similar to the Venice Carnival. The origin of the word Carnaval is 'Carne Vale' which means Goodbye to the meat in Latin. It marks the beginning of the sacred period that leads to Easter.

The real festival is held in the southern part of the Netherlands in the provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg
Limburg
Limburg may refer to:A province divided between Belgium and the Netherlands as consequence of the Treaty of London* Province of Limburg , a former province of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

.

Sweden


In Sweden the celebration is called Fettisdagen
Fettisdagen
Fettisdagen is the Tuesday after the Quinquagesima and the last day before the Christian feast; the day between Shrove Monday, and Ash Wednesday. Because it is the last day before the Easter Feast, it has created a tradition to eat buns, so called "fastlagsbullar", "fettisdagsbullar" or "semla"...

. It comes from the word "fett" (fat) and "tisdag" (Tuesday). Originally, this was the only day one should eat semlor
Semla
A semla or fastlagsbulle , laskiaispulla or fastelavnsbolle is a traditional pastry made in various forms in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and Norway associated with Lent and especially Shrove Monday or Shrove Tuesday.The name semla is a loan word from German Semmel,...

. These are now sold in most grocery stores and bakeries preceding the holiday, and up until Easter.

United States


While not observed nationally throughout the United States, a number of traditionally ethnic French cities and regions in the country have notable celebrations. Mardi Gras arrived in North America as a French Catholic tradition with the Le Moyne brothers, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville
Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville
Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville pronounced as described in note] Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville pronounced as described in note] Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville pronounced as described in note] (16 July 1661 – 9 July 1702 (probable)was a soldier, ship captain, explorer, colonial administrator, knight of...

 and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France's claim on the territory of Louisiane
Louisiana (New France)
Louisiana or French Louisiana was an administrative district of New France. Under French control from 1682–1763 and 1800–03, the area was named in honor of Louis XIV, by French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle...

, which included what are now the U.S. states of Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

, and Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

.

The expedition, led by Iberville, entered the mouth of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 on the evening of March 2, 1699, Lundi Gras
Lundi Gras
Lundi Gras is a relatively recently popularized name for a series of Shrove Monday events taking place during the New Orleans Mardi Gras. It includes the tradition of Rex, king of the New Orleans carnival, arriving by boat...

. They did not yet know it was the river explored and claimed for France by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, or Robert de LaSalle was a French explorer. He explored the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico...

 in 1683. The party proceeded upstream to a place on the west bank about 60 miles downriver from where New Orleans is today, and made camp. This was on March 3, 1699, Mardi Gras, so in honor of this holiday, Iberville named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: "Mardi Gras Point") and called the nearby tributary Bayou Mardi Gras. Bienville went on to found the settlement of Mobile, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern US state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the Mobile River and the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 during the 2010 census. It is the largest...

 in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana. In 1703 French settlers in Mobile began the Mardi Gras celebration tradition. By 1720, Biloxi
Biloxi, Mississippi
Biloxi is a city in Harrison County, Mississippi, in the United States. The 2010 census recorded the population as 44,054. Along with Gulfport, Biloxi is a county seat of Harrison County....

 had been made capital of Louisiana. The French customs had already accompanied colonists who settled there.

In 1723, the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, founded in 1718. The tradition has expanded to the point that it became strongly associated with the city in popular perception, and embraced by residents of New Orleans beyond those of French or Catholic heritage. Mardi Gras celebrations are part of the basis of the slogan, Laissez les bons temps rouler, (Let the good times roll) and the nickname "Big Easy". Mobile, Alabama, the former capital of New France
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

, also has a long tradition of celebrating Mardi Gras. Other cities along the Gulf Coast formerly occupied and owned by the French from Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle and the county seat of Escambia County, Florida, United States of America. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 56,255 and as of 2009, the estimated population was 53,752...

, and its suburbs to Lafayette, Louisiana
Lafayette, Louisiana
Lafayette is a city in and the parish seat of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, United States, on the Vermilion River. The population was 120,623 at the 2010 census...

, have active Mardi Gras celebrations. In the rural Acadiana
Acadiana
Acadiana, or The Heart of Acadiana, is the official name given to the French Louisiana region that is home to a large Francophone population. Of the 64 parishes that make up Louisiana, 22 named parishes and other parishes of similar cultural environment, make up the intrastate...

 area, many Cajuns celebrate with the Courir de Mardi Gras
Courir de Mardi Gras
The Courir de Mardi Gras is a traditional Mardi Gras event held in many Cajun communities of south Louisiana on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Courir de Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday Run". The rural Mardi Gras celebration is based on early begging rituals, similar to those still...

, a tradition that dates to medieval celebrations in France.

In the last decade of the 20th century, the rise in producing commercial videotape
Videotape
A videotape is a recording of images and sounds on to magnetic tape as opposed to film stock or random access digital media. Videotapes are also used for storing scientific or medical data, such as the data produced by an electrocardiogram...

s catering to voyeurs
Voyeurism
In clinical psychology, voyeurism is the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other activity usually considered to be of a private nature....

 helped encourage a tradition of women baring breasts in exchange for beads and trinkets. This is practiced only in very small fragments of where Mardi Gras is celebrated, mostly by visitors rather than locals.

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