Mardi Gras is the French term for Fat Tuesday. Most people know what Mardi Gras, the huge celebration that takes place in New Orleans. Latin American countries, specifically Brazil, take part in huge festivals called Carnival every year.
Many people may only know Fat Tuesday when the French Quarter of New Orleans becomes a raucous night of fun, excitement, beads and excessive drinking. However, Fat Tuesday is a closely related to the Catholic Church.
Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season, according to the Catholic calendar. Fat Tuesday traditionally became the last hoorah, in which they could engage in eating fatty foods and drink excessive amounts of alcohol before Catholics had to prepare for 40 days of Lent and Easter Sunday, according to AmericanCatholic.org.
Mardi Gras also has ties to Christmas as well. The Carnival season begins right after the Epiphany on Jan. 6, the day the Three Magi, the Wise Men, brought gifts to the new born Jesus, according to AmericanCatholic.org. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, as we know it today was first brought to the United States in the 1699 by French explorer Iberville, according to The History Calendar. French Settlers usually held masked balls, according to a report from the Orange County Register.
The French celebrated this holiday since the Middle Ages, the tradition took hold in New Orleans while it was ruled by France. However, when the United States bought New Orleans from Napoleon, the tradition was banned.
In 1823, a large Creole population convinced the United States government to recognized the holiday and reinstate Fat Tuesday in New Orleans. And the first document parade began in 1837 when masked party goers marched through the streets. A group of men from Mobile, Ala. formed an organization called Comus and reportedly coined the word krewe, which became the groups that hold the Mardi Gras parades through the city streets.
Today, nearly 50 krewes hold parades and balls in various cities throughout the United States. Since the 1850s, parades have been held annually, except during World War I and World War II, when events were forced to be placed on hold for a few years.
Other cities, such as St. Louis, San Diego, Baton Rouge and Detroit also hold Fat Tuesday festivities.