Here at mardigrasbh.com we are going to take you for a ride through everything related to mardi gras. When you hear the word, you automatically imagine parades and brightly coloured costumes. You think of parties and celebrations, but often people don’t know much about the history of the celebrations.
Mardi gras have got a huge history and are celebrated the world over. At mardigrasbh.com we will feed you all the exciting facts that you need to know about mardi gras celebrations around the globe. We’ll let you know where they came from and why they are such a big deal even today.
The History of Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is also known as Shrove Tuesday in English. It directly references the carnival celebrations that begin at the end of the Christian feasts of the Epiphany and comes to a crescendo on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras directly translates as Fat Tuesday, which reflects the last night of eating rich and fatty foods before the ritual of lent.
The celebration is synonymous with New Orleans. This is where the biggest and best carnivals take place, but where and why did it all come about?
It all officially began on Twelfth Night when a debutante would find a golden bean in her slice of king cake at the revellers ball. She then reigns as the Queen of the Ball and is served by maids who found silver beans. Then they begin their carnival season all the way up to Ash Wednesday.
It was first observed by New Orleans in 1700, but these incorporated a pretty evil element. Things got so bad, in fact, that the huge celebrations ground to a halt between 1806 and 1823. Although celebrations still happened in those years, it was illegal to wear masks, however, it still happened underground.
Mardi Gras Today
The ritual of Mardi Gras hasn’t become outdated however, and the celebrations still attract thousands of tourists every year. People are enthralled with the colours and want to experience first-hand the bright and energetic celebrations. It has now built a reputation of being the biggest and most colourful parade of the year, with masks, costumes and floats.
Today it is celebrated not just in New Orleans, but around the world – with Brazil’s Rio Carnival being one of the most eagerly anticipated. These celebrations last for six full on days, and attract thousands of party goers every year. Celebrations are still pretty good in New Orleans however, and this is definitely a carnival that deserves a visit.
However, known as Shrove Tuesday, this isn’t really celebrated with much fervour in the UK – unless eating a pancake or two counts…
The Top Ten Mardi Gras Celebration Around the World
- Obviously. there was never any doubt that the number one celebration would be at the home of the Mardi Gras itself – New Orleans. To this day, the fun-filled carnival begins with a masked ball on January 6 with the celebration reaching its peak during 5 days of pre-Lent parties.
- Olinda in Brazil is very different to Rio. Olinda is a historic coastal town that celebrates the carnival with small bands playing frevo and huge papier mache puppets that lurch through the cobbled quarter. Each street has its very own bloco (a carnival band), driving forward masses of gyrating and costumed dancers.
- Mexico is another South American country that knows how to celebrate. In Veracruz, the celebrations kick off eight days before Lent. It begins with the quema del mal humor – ‘the burning of ill humour’ in the form of an effigy of the devil… or a very unpopular political figure. This is followed by over a week of fun parades and Latin partying which includes the Queen and King of Joy. It ends with a pretend burial for Carnival Juan, the symbol of festivities.
- Moving out of South America and into the Caribbean, we have the Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago. This is partying at its hottest. Revellers wearing headdresses, hot pants and painted bodies dance along to soca. It is host to the best party in the Caribbean. You can indulge in all night parties, with steel-pan music. Two days before the end of the celebrations paint, oil and melted chocolate are thrown around during the parades, making for a very messy affair.
- Going back to South America we visit Oruro in Bolivia. This may only be a small quiet town that normally minds its own business but it comes alive during the pre-Lent celebrations. The processions feature dancing devils known as diabladas. Superstitious miners feared that their devil, Supay, would be jealous of the Virgin of the Mineshaft so they dress up in devil’s costumes and throw water balloons at each other. It now even boasts a 48-metre statue of the Virgin Mary – which is even taller than Rio’s Christ the Redeemer. Just goes to show that size isn’t everything.
- Taking a long journey over the water we get to Europe and visit Cologne, Germany. They go on for a very long time, beginning in November and all the way through winter. They have parades, balls, concerts and more. On the Monday before Ash Wednesday they have a rowdy pageant of fools followed by an all-night ball.
- Still in Europe, we come to Italy – Venice. This is where they know how to do it – the home of the Carnevale. Venetians allow themselves to act out their fantasies behind the anonymity of masks.
- Another European delight is Patras in Greece. This draws its inspiration from Ancient Greece – and Dionysus – the god of wine. It starts on Jan 17 and goes into early March, finishing off with a lavish parade and kite flying competition.
- Flying on over to Africa we have the beautiful Mindelo in Cape Verde. It is host to a wide mix of carnival traditions in the run up to Lent. Floats and dancers shake their thing to creole music. There are competitions for the best outfit, prettiest girl and the finest oil-smeared drum playing group of Mandingo warriors.
- Finally, we visit Asia and head to Goa in India. The carnival exudes a real hippy feel that makes it legendary. On Fat Saturday, King Momo reads a decree that entitles him to rule for 3 days, which involves everyone partying. Be prepared for some beautiful floats, charming dancers accompanied by traditional folk songs.
So, there we have it. Mardi Gras is a wild and wonderful celebration with a massively rich history the whole world over. It may not be the biggest celebration in the UK, but there’s always a plane going to somewhere you can celebrate in style.