Celebrating Mardi Gras: What Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras ColorWhat is Mardi Gras? Mardi Gras is a holiday that begins on or after Epiphany and culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday. Epiphany, which is also known as Three Kings Day and Twelfth Day, falls on the twelfth day after Christmas, or January 6. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and occurs forty-six days before Easter. The date of Ash Wednesday occurs as early as February 4 or as late as March 10 depending on the date of Easter, which falls on the Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon. The Mardi Gras, or Carnival, season ends on Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins.

Popular Mardi Gras traditions include wearing masks and costumes, collecting beads and other throws from parades, eating King Cake, and other general merriment. Masquerade balls are a popular tradition in the South during the Mardi Gras season. Mardi Gras celebrations are especially prominent in New Orleans, Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama. The colors associated with the Mardi Gras holiday are purple, green, and gold.

King CakeKing Cake is an especially popular treat during Mardi Gras. A King Cake is a cake in which a small trinket, often a small plastic baby that represents Baby Jesus, is baked inside. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket must bring a King Cake to the next celebration. The simplest type of King Cake is a ring of twisted bread that is topped with icing and purple, green, and gold sugar.

In many areas of the United States, in the South especially, people decorate for the Mardi Gras season with purple, green, and gold decorations. Doorways are decorated with purple, green, and gold ribbons and wreathes. Homes and business will put up Mardi Gras trees decorated with purple, green, and gold lights and decorations. Mardi Gras is a time of celebration before the self-denial of the Lenten season.

My brother lives in Mobile, Alabama. While on a recent vacation, my daughter and I discovered the beauty that is the Mardi Gras season. Although I did not decorate my house for Mardi Gras this year, next year I plan to put up purple, green, and gold lights. I may even attempt to bake my own King Cake. I am always looking for an excuse to decorate my house, and Mardi Gras just seems like a fun holiday!

Do you celebrate Mardi Gras?


Mardi Gras: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mardi_Gras
Mardi Gras History and Traditions: http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/quartermardi.html

Image Credits

Mardi Gras Colors: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MardiGras_colors_metallic.gif
King Cake: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KingcakeHaydelPlain21Jan2008.jpg

Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson is a mother, wife, writer, librarian, and linguist. She earned a BA in English studies with a minor in creative writing from Illinois State University in May 2007, an MS in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2009, and an MS in English studies with an emphasis in linguistics at Illinois State University in December 2011.

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