Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday is the last day of feasting before Lent begins. According to history, the origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries. This led to the French House of the Bourbons. The traditional revelry of Boeuf Gras, or fatted calf followed France to her colonies.
On March 2, 1699 when the men traveling with French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville discovered that they arrived on land sixty miles south of New Orleans, which Bienville named Pointe du Mardi Gras on the eve of this holiday. In 1718, Bienville established New Orleans. Mardi Gras was celebrated by the 1730’s, but not with the type of pageantry it is today. Louisiana Governor Marquis de Vaudreuil established more elegant society balls in the early 1740’s. Mardi Gras in New Orleans has been celebrated on a grand scale since that time.
Did you know about the Mardi Gras Indians? Just who are these people? Mardi Gras Indians have been parading since the early 1800’s and are all of African-American heritage. They were segregated however, for many years. According to one theory, native Louisiana tribes offered shelter to runaway slaves and another alludes to the fact that buffalo Bill’s Wild West Traveling Show used African-Americans to imitate native traditions and rituals. Nonetheless when Mardi Gras Indians dress in tribal costumes called “masking” they do it boldly, wearing exquisite and elaborate headdresses, called “crowns,” and feathered costumes, “called suits” in vibrant colors. Suits of the Mardi Gras Indians are the most celebrated aspect of the culture. Every Indian invests a lot of time, money and creativity to sew a new suit unveiled on the morning of Mardi Gras.
Click here to read more about the Mardi Gras Indians in this article, On The Backstreets of Mardi Gras