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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras in Birmingham?
Well, a taste of it anyway!  5th Annual Mardi Gras Parade

There were moon pies, candies, and bead strings to be had by all!
But after that, it was cold out there, so we didn't stick around for too much longer. ;)

What's the story behind the raucous celebrations and bead-flinging floats parading through the streets of New Orleans? 

Officially, it is the day before Ash Wednesday; it is also commonly referred to as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day.  It can occur anytime between February 3rd and March 9th, depending on when Easter is held that year. Mardi Gras, French for "Fat Tuesday," is traditionally the day of celebration following the practice of eating richer, fatty foods prior to the begin of ritual Lent fasting on Ash Wednesday.

It goes well beyond New Orleans, though: Mardi Gras has meaning across the world, too. Popular practices historically included wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, etc. Carnival is an important celebration in Catholic European nations. Pancakes and related fried breads or pastries made with sugar, fat and eggs are also traditionally consumed at this time in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Where did it come from?  When did it start?

- Mardi Gras arrived in North America in 1699 as a French Catholic tradition when France came to maintain its claim on the territory of Louisiane (now Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana). They set up camp in New Orleans.  "Mardi Gras Point" (Point du Mardi Gras) was named.
- The settlement of Mobile, Alabama was founded in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana.  And in 1703 French settlers began the Mardi Gras celebration tradition there.
- By 1720, Biloxi had been made capital of Louisiana. The French customs followed there too.
- In 1723, the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, and the customs were already deep rooted and celebrated by both French and Catholic. 

From these humble beginnings a proud culture of French ancestors known as the Creole population of the Bayous began and prospered, and each year thousands of people become honorary Creoles during Mardi Gras celebrations held throughout the United States.

Mobile, Alabama, the former capital of New France, also has a long tradition of celebrating Mardi Gras.
Other cities along the Gulf Coast formerly occupied and owned by the French from Pensacola, Florida, and its suburbs to Lafeyette, Louisiana, have active Mardi Gras celebrations.  There are other places in the world who take their Mardi Gras celebrations just as seriously, even if they are not as well known or publicized. 

"Let the good times roll"

Mardi Gras today is about various cultures coming together to celebrate the things that make them unique and uniting under the common theme of being people who like to have fun and enjoy each other and have a great time.