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The History of Madi Gras Plus 4 Recipes to Try at Home to Celebrate

Mar 01, 2022 11:51AM ● By Virginia Dean

It’s the time of year again: Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday that in 2022 falls on March 1st – the last day of the Carnival season falling on the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. 

The Christian feasting period turned cultural phenomenon dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Also known as Carnival or Carnaval, it’s celebrated in countries around the world. The origins of the celebration can be traced to medieval Europe, passing through Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries to France, where the traditional revelry of Boeuf Gras or fatted calf followed to its colonies. 

In 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived in New Orleans and named it Pointe du Mardi Gras. In 1703, the small settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America’s first Mardi Gras. The following year, Mobile established a secret society (Masque de la Mobile) that lasted until 1709. In 1710, the Boeuf Gras Society was formed and paraded from 1711 to 1861. The procession was held with a huge bull’s head pushed on wheels by 16 men. Later, a real bull, draped in white and signaling the coming Lenten meat fast, was put into the parade. This occurred on Fat Tuesday.

By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans as a ball. It wasn’t until 50 years later that the Mardi Gras Carnival appeared in a report to the Spanish colonial governing body. By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras. Dazzling gaslight torches or flambeaux lit the way for the festivities. In 1857, six men established a secret group that they named the Mistick Krewe of Comus that held a themed parade as well as a ball. From that time, Mardi Gras continued to grow.

By 1875, the then Governor Warmoth signed the Mardi Gras Act, making Fat Tuesday a legal holiday in Louisiana, which it still is. Since all of the parade organizations are completely funded by their members, New Orleanians call the popular event the Greatest Free Show on Earth. Revelers wear costumes or dress in purple, green, and gold and adorn themselves with long beads caught from the floats of previous parades. Parade-goers sit on the ground, throw balls, play music, eat great food and watch the crowds walk by between parades.

To celebrate at home try one of these traditional Mardi Gras recipes:

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