February 12, 2013

Pop Quiz: Carnival

What does "Mardi Gras" mean?

Shelby: We are here at Mardi Gras World, where hundreds of parade floats are designed and built every single year.

Today, Mardi Gras is a huge celebration here in New Orleans, but the holiday actually came to North America from France hundreds of years ago. So, do you know what the French phrase ‘Mardi Gras’ actually means? Well, that is today’s pop quiz question!

What does Mardi Gras mean in French? Is it:

A. Carnival Season

B. Fat Tuesday

C. Festival of Beads

D. Parade Week

You have got ten seconds!

Time is up!

The answer is “B.” Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday.

It is called Fat Tuesday because Mardi Gras is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a forty-day period known as Lent, observed by some Christians. The idea is to enjoy all the pleasures and get fat on Tuesday before having to give up luxuries or fast during Lent.

In other countries around the world, the festival season leading up to Lent is also called Carnival.

Since Mardi Gras was first celebrated in the U.S. in 1699, the holiday has evolved to include a lot of unique traditions. Modern-day Mardi Gras is celebrated with colorful costumes and beaded necklaces. And there is purple and green king cake, baked with a trinket, like a tiny plastic baby representing the baby Jesus, hidden inside. And, of course, the New Orleans parades with their with massive floats.

Another big feature of Mardi Gras parades is music, and coming up, I will introduce you to one of the most famous marching bands in the land.

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