Mardi Gras first came to the French Quarter of New Orleans back in 1699. It was celebrated by early explorers on the banks of the Mississippi. Now it is celebrated by parades, beads and masquerades balls. It is no longer just a New Orleans or French holiday - it is celebrated around the country, but mainly (and most strenuously) in the South.
The literal translation of Mardi Gras is "Fat Tuesday". It is the day before Ash Wednesday, when the Catholic season of Lent begins. Lent is a season of penance, sacrifice and introspection. Mardi Gras is anything but that. It is a time of decadence, over-indulgence and just plain fun! In 2009 Mardi Gras is February 24th.
Bright colors are everywhere during Mardi Gras, but there are three dominant or official colors: Purple, Green and Gold. These colors are said to be representative of justice (royal purple), Faith (green) and power (gold).
The actual Mardi Gras Season starts two weeks before Fat Tuesday in New Orleans. During that time there will be nightly parades and parties. Most business close on Lundi Gras (Fat Monday) and virtually all business close on Mardi Grad itself. Of course hotels, bars, restaurants and other party-related business stay open.
New Orleans is one of the largest tourist spots in the world and when it comes to Mardi Gras, nobody does it better.
Among the fine food and drink associated with New Orleans and Mardi Gras, one special dessert is best known. It is the King Cake, a large oval cinnamon roll with white icing sprinkled with sugar dyed in purple, green and gold.
What make these King Cake really special is that hidden inside there is a plastic baby, just about the size of an almond. The person who finds the baby in the King Cake is the next King (or Queen) and is awarded the honor of hosting the next King Cake Party. It is up to you to decide whether or not you would be happy to find the plastic baby!
Round up some inexpensive, plastic multi-colored beads, maybe a mask and some good friends and you've got yourself a Mardi Gras party. Of course, you will probably want to add some liquid refreshment. And just to keep with tradition, why not try making a King Cake.
Click here for the recipe
Find out where you'll be celebrating Mardi Gras next year!