Submitted by riverton on

French for “Fat Tuesday,” the last feast before Lent has always been an extravagant affair. Celebrations date back to medieval Europe and are observed all over the world, from France and Germany to Brazil and Senegal. The holiday came to America in 1703 with French-Canadian explorers, and has been a tradition in the Gulf states ever since.

Today it’s a loud, colorful, ruckus party, and a staple of New Orleans culture. Purple, green, and gold are the celebration’s signature colors, meant to represent justice, faith, and power. They’re seen on beads or “throws,” house decorations, and ornate handmade costumes. Groups of revelers, called “krewes,” host parades and masked balls, each crowning its own king and queen of Mardi Gras.

Deep-rooted traditions are observed in New Orleans’ French Quarter and other neighborhoods. Flamboyant leaders called Mardi Gras Indians head processions of dancing and drumming, decked out in feathers and flashy get-ups that take months to make. King Cakes are baked and served at parties. Each one has a candy or plastic baby toy baked inside. Whoever gets the slice with the baby will host next year’s party.

 Laissez les bon temps roulez!