Mardi Gras Fun!

Mardi Gras' ~The Greatest Free Party On Earth~
"Fat Tuesday"
Don't miss it!

Lessez le Bon Temp Rouller

In Christian communities around the world, the 40 days preceding Easter comprise Lent, a period of fasting and penitence. It begins with Ash Wednesday, the day many Catholics go to church to receive the sign of the cross marked in ash on their foreheads, its purpose being to remind them of their own mortality. For much of the country the Tuesday before Lent is just that, a Tuesday, but in New Orleans this Tuesday is "Mardi Gras" or "Fat Tuesday", representing the last gasp of decadence before a period of austerity.

Mardi Gras Terms

Ball (bal masque, tableau ball) - a masked ball in which scenes representing a specific theme are enacted for the entertainment of the club members and their guests, krewe "royalty" is traditionally presented during the ball.

Boeuf Gras (French) - the fatted bull or ox, the ancient symbol of he last meat eaten before the Lenten season of fasting: a live version was presented in the Rex parade until 1909; a papier-mache version appeared in 1959 and continues as one of Carnival's most recognizable symbols.

Captain - the absolute leader of each Carnival organization.

Carnival - from the Latin carnivale, loosely translated as "farewell to flesh"; the season of merriment in New Orleans which begins annually on Jan. 6, the Twelfth Night (the feast of the Epiphany), and ends at the midnight on Fat Tuesday; the Carnival season leads up to the penitential season of Lent in which fasting replaces feasting.

Court - the King, Queen, maids and dukes of a Carnival organization.

Den - a large warehouse where floats are built and stored.

Doubloons aluminum coin-like objects bearing the krewe's insignia on one side and the parade's theme on the reverse; first introduced by Rex in 1960 and created by New Orleans artist H. Alvin Sharpe; doubloons are also minted and sold in .999 silver, bronze and cloisonne.

Favor - a souvenir, given by krewe members to friends attending the ball, normally bearing the organization's insignia, name and year of issue, like this Pegasus favor from 1970.

Flambeaux (plural) - Naphtha-fueled torches, traditionally carried by white-robed black men; in the past century, flambeaux provided the only source of nighttime parade illumination.

Invitation - a printed request for attendance at a Carnival ball, in the 19th Century, many invitations were die-cut and printed in Paris; today, most are printed in New Orleans; invitations are not-transferable, and it is improper to ever refer to them as "tickets".

King Cake - an oval, sugared pastry that contains a plastic doll hidden inside; the person who finds the doll is crowned "king" and buys the next cake or throws the next party; the king cake season open on King's Day, Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany. More then 750,000 king cakes are annually consumed in the metro New Orleans area during the Carnival season.

Krewe - the generic term for all Carnival organizations in New Orleans, first used by the Mistick Krewe of Comus, which coined the word in 1857 to give its club's name an Old English flavor.

Lundi Gras - French for Fat Monday. From 1897 to 1917, the day before Mardi Gras was celebrated by the arrival of Rex aboard a steamboat. The custom was revived in 1987, and Lundi Gras now includes Carnival activities by Zulu and Rex.

Mardi Gras - French for Fat Tuesday, the single-day culmination of the Carnival season.

Mardi Gras Indians - groups of black men in New Orleans who portray American Indians and are magnificently outfitted with handmade beaded and feathered costumes; this Carnival custom dates to the mid-19th century; among the more legendary tribes are the Wild Tchoupitoulas, the Creole Wild West and the Yellow Pocahontas.

Throws - inexpensive trinkets tossed from floats by costumed and masked krewe members; among the more popular items are krewe-emblemed aluminum doubloons, plastic cups, white pearl necklaces. Throws are tossed in response to the cry, "Throw me something, mister".

Mardi Gras History

The Carnival season begins on January 6, the Feast of Epiphany, and lasts until Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday and the onset of Lent. By the 1850s, it was as if there were two separate Mardi Gras celebrations: the elegant balls of high society, and the wild, riotous reveling in the streets by the not-so-elite. Mardi Gras reveling was once again in danger of being banned.

In 1857, the secret Mystick Krewe of Comus was founded by a group of men who knew that Mardi Gras could only be preserved with careful planning, organization, and management of the celebrations. Comus planned the first parade, lighting the procession with flambeaux, or torches.

The same year, Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia planned to come to New Orleans for Carnival. The Krewe of Rex formed principly to entertain the Duke. Since America did not have royalty to properly greet visiting nobles, Rex created a "king for the day." The Celtic tradition of a Substitute King had been revived.

Dozens of Krewes have been created since Comus and Rex, all with their own traditions -- their own parades, their balls, their Kings and Queens. And although some revelers begin donning masks as early as the Friday before Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday is still the traditional day for masks, disguises, and formal-wear in the City that Care Forgot.

But it must be remembered that although costumes are worn for both, Mardi Gras is not Halloween. Gore and mayhem may work for All Hallow's Eve, but for Mardi Gras, glamour is de rigour. Feathers, beads, glitter, spangles -- all work well on Mardi Gras. Tuxedoes, ball gowns, and boas work. Fake blood and Freddie Krueger gloves do not.

Rituals and traditions have also evolved with non-krewe members as well. Those in the heart of Carnival often begin their celebrating on January 6, and don't let up until Ash Wednesday -- for remember, Mardi Gras is the peak of the Carnival Season, but it is only one day. New Orleans has officially established Lundi Gras on the Monday before Fat Tuesday because no one can get any work done as of the Friday before anyway.

Many locals begin with a party on January 6 that includes a King Cake, a cake baked in the shape of a large doughnut, covered with icing and colored sugar of green, gold, and purple, the traditional Mardi Gras colors. Purple represents justice, green

representing faith, and gold representing power. Inside the cake is a tiny plastic baby, meant to represent the Baby Jesus (but we remember a time when he was just another Celtic bean). Whoever gets the piece with the baby is crowned King or Queen ... and is expected to throw a party on the following weekend. Parties with King Cake continue each weekend until Mardi Gras itself finally arrives.

Reveling in the streets occurs the entire weekend before Mardi Gras, but the biggest day by far is Mardi Gras itself. Many revelers provide as big a show as the krewes themselves.

Mardi Gras Links
  • Y-Life:Party Mardi, February 1999
  • Mardi Gras !!!
  • Welcome to the Mardi Gras
  • Mardi Gras Beads, Masks, Music...Mardi Gras Madness!
  • About Mardi Gras Madness, Official Site of Mardi Gras 1999
  • Mardi Gras New Orleans!
  • Mardi Gras Central: Countdown to Mardi Gras 1999

  • Background provided by: