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Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday") is the day before Ash Wednesday, and is also called "Shrove Tuesday" or "Pancake Day". It is the final day of Carnival. It is a celebration that is held just before the beginning of the Christian liturgical season of Lent.


The date is always on Tuesday and can vary from February 3 to March 9 in non-leap years or February 4 to March 9 in leap years. Like Lent, the date is dependent on that of Easter.
What is?

While not observed nationally throughout the United States, a number of cities and regions in the country have notable celebrations. Mardi Gras arrived in North America with the Le Moyne brothers, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France's claim on the territory of Louisiana, which included what are now the U.S. states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

The two explorers eventually found the mouth of the Mississippi River, sailed a while upstream and named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: "Mardi Gras Point") 60 miles downriver from present-day New Orleans. In 1699, the traditional Catholic celebration ensued leading to what many refer to as "North America's first Mardi Gras".

In 1723, the capital of Louisiana was moved, due to fear of tides and hurricanes, to an inland harbor town founded 1718 called "Nouvelle-Orléans" (New Orleans), and the tradition, which had started 20 years earlier in Mobile, was expanded. Carnival celebrations took place in all towns and cities in the colony. Mardi Gras Carnival celebrations became an annual event highlighted by lavish balls and masked spectacles, such as Masque de la Mobile from 1704. Some were small, private parties with select guest-lists, while others were raucous, public affairs. More information on the official web site for Mardi Gras.


King Rex selected the official Mardi Gras colors in 1872. The 1892 Rex Parade theme Symbolism of Colors gave meaning to the colors: purple represents justice; green represents faith; and gold represents power.

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