The History And Celebration Of Mardi Gras

Most people have heard of Mardi Gras and associate it with New Orleans, beads, drinking and partying. While these associations may come very close to the celebrations that take place, do you know what is behind the celebration of Mardi Gras? Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French which is another name you may have heard the event referred to as. Continue on to discover the religious meaning behind the celebration, it’s history, and how many people in Philadelphia will be celebrating.

History Of The Holiday

Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is Christian holiday that dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations. The ancient pagans had celebrations for spring and fertility called Lupercalia and Saturnalia. It is believed that when Christianity made its way into Rome the faith was merged into the celebrations creating Mardi Gras to be a celebration period prior to the 40 days of preparation for Easter. These 40 preparation days are known as Lent which is a season of fasting and penance leading up to Easter Sunday. The Mardi Gras celebration spread with Christianity as it made its way into other countries in Europe.

What’s In A Name?

In French, the word Mardi means Tuesday and the word gras means fat, hence the name Fat Tuesday. This name is given because the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in Christianity, is traditionally reserved for eating fatty and rich foods prior to the weeks of fasting that will come during the Lenten season.

Another name that has been given to the celebration is Carnival. In Medieval Latin, the word carnelevarium means to remove meat. The name obviously refers to the feasting tradition of the celebration.

The day before Ash Wednesday is was commonly known by Christians as Shrove Tuesday. This is because the word shrove is the past tense of the word shrive. Shrive is a verb used to describe the action of a priest hearing confession and absolving the confessor of their sins. Shrove Tuesday may also be referred to as Pancake Day coming from an old English custom of eating pancakes and other fattening foods prior to the Lenten season of fasting.

New Orleans

Most people associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans considering the large parties held there each year. With this association, many people believe that the American celebration of Mardi Gras began in New Orleans, but this is not correct.

It is believed that the celebration began in America on March 3, 1699, when 2 French-Canadian explorers landed about 60 miles from present-day New Orleans. They wanted to celebrate knowing that it was indeed Mardi Gras and held a small gathering in the area which they named Point du Mardi Gras, which is present-day Mobile, Alabama.

Philadelphia Celebrates

Obviously, many people will want to travel to New Orleans to experience the legendary parties held for Mardi Gras, but if you are unable to travel, Philadelphia won’t disappoint! It is clear that Philadelphians know how to party and have a great time so there will be plenty of partying to be had during Mardi Gras this year.

Several Philadelphia bars will be offering drink specials such as hurricanes and food specials for New Orleans themed food such as jambalaya. While many celebrations and specials will be occurring on Tuesday and Wednesday nights there are plenty of restaurants and bars that will keep the party going all through the weekend.

Of course, parades are often associated with Mardi Gras and Philadelphia will not be left out. The Mummers will be marching and performing in a parade down Main Street in Manayunk on February 25 from 1 to 3 pm. There will be photo opportunities and family-friendly activities, along with several places to eat and drink along the parade route.

By |2018-02-13T22:13:57+00:00February 13th, 2018|Events|Comments Off on The History And Celebration Of Mardi Gras

About the Author:

Luke Wistar Morris was part of the Morris family who built what is now the Morris House Hotel. Luke had many interests including brewing beer, and was an engineer in Philadelphia. Follow Luke on Google+
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