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10 Facts About Mardi Gras You May Not Know

Kansas City, February 16, 2021.

It’s Mardi Gras and we will be celebrating the end of the seven fatty days (seriously - that’s what this past week is called), which culminates today on Fat Tuesday - the literal translation of the French words Mardi Gras.

HOW IS THE DATE OF MARDI GRAS DETERMINED? Twelfth Night is always twelve days after Christmas, January 6th. Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday, forty-six days before Easter Sunday which is the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. That period of time is the Carnival Season. The day before Ash Wednesday, which is Mardi Gras Day, will be between February 3rd to March 9th. Here are some future dates for Mardi Gras: 2022-March 1st; 2023-February 21st; 2024-February 13th; 2025-March 4th; 2026-February 17th.

SHROVE TUESDAY. Most people think of revelry when it comes to the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, but for some that day is called Shrove Tuesday. Many Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Roman Catholics participate in a day of repentance, confession, and introspection, asking God’s guidance for spiritual growth. Shrove Tuesday is derived from the word shrive, which means to absolve. The Christian liturgical season known as Shrovetide comes to an end today, and this is the day that the Holy Week palms from last year are ritually burned, their cinders to be used on Ash Wednesday. Well, that’s one way to celebrate?!

WHY VENETIANS WEAR MASKS. In Italy, and most especially Venice, they celebrate Carnival with street revelry, confetti and masks. The reason for the masks is to hide the guilt of your sins when you wake up on Ash Wednesday. How convenient!

THE BIGGEST SHOW ON EARTH. Brazil’s Carnival is one of their major tourist attractions with 70% of all tourists visiting during this time period. Rio de Janeiro is the main city of celebration with two million people attending. The samba is the dance of Brazil’s carnival, which some say is to shake off the “gras!”

FASTLAGSBULLE ANYONE? Sweden calls its celebration Fettisdagen, from “fett” meaning fat and “tisdag” meaning Tuesday. There they eat fastlagsbulle (semla), which is a sweet, cardamom-spiced bun filled with a mix of milk and almond paste and topped with whipped cream.

TECHNO MARDI GRAS. The Caymen Islands are the place to go if pounding club music is your thing. This three-day festival brings thousands of revelers every year and is one of the island’s national festivals. They start it off with a more traditional Fat Tuesday, but put their own spin on things with an all-day EDM Ash Wednesday bash that is attended by many international celebrities and performers.

WHERE’S THE BEEF? Here’s a fact you probably didn’t know - the term carnaval, where carnival comes from, originates from the Latin phrase “carnem levare” which means “to take away meat.” Many Catholics still do not eat meat on Fridays during Lent.

THE FIRST MARDI GRAS ON AMERICAN SOIL. in the late 17th Century, French King Louis XIV commissioned the French Canadian Le Moyne brothers to explore the mouth of the Mississippi to establish a colony in the Louisiana Territory. When their exploration party landed at the mouth of the Mississippi on March 3, 1699 it was Mardi Gras. In tribute to the holiday being celebrated that day in France, the brothers named the spot Pointe du Mardi Gras. This is the oldest place names of non-Native American origin in the whole Mississippi River valley.

THROW ME SOMETHING, MISTER. This is what you will hear if you attend the Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans. The trinkets and collectibles that are thrown from the floats to people lining the parade routes are called throws! Throws can be plastic beads, glass beads, toys, cups, spears and just about anything imaginable. In 1910, Zulu Krewe began throwing coconuts or “Golden Nuggets”, which was considered a very sought after throw. After several lawsuits from parade-goers who were hit in the head with coconuts, the organization could no longer get insurance coverage in 1987 and stopped this tradition. After lobbying the Louisiana Legislature, it passed SB188, the “Coconut Bill,” which excluded the coconut from liability for alleged injuries arising from the coconuts that were handed from the floats. In 1988, then-governor Edwin Edwards signed the bill into law. Today the elaborately decorated Zulu coconut is a much-coveted collector item.

GREEN, PURPLE AND YELLOW (GOLD) If you don’t see green, purple and yellow (or gold) when you think of Mardi Gras, then you don’t know the symbolic colors seen everywhere in NOLA. Thousands upon thousands of beads in these colors decorate the necks of the revelers every year. Purple symbolizes justice, gold symbolizes power and green symbolizes faith. Now bundle up, ignore the frigid temperatures and let some jambalaya warm you up. "Laissez les bon temps rouler!" It means "let the good times roll" in Cajun French. If someone should say that to you, the proper reply is “Oui, Cher.” However, don’t pronounce Cher like the singer’s name, use the Cajun French pronunciation of “Sha.”


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