A [very] brief history of MARDI GRAS

A [very] brief history of MARDI GRAS

The Wine Jerk was in New Orleans for the first days of Mardi Gras. What a great time! More on my trip in a later post. This post is just to give you the reader a brief history of Mardi Gras. Enjoy!


Many Americans associate Mardi Gras with drunken debauchery and women baring their breasts for cheap colored beads. But most of the season’s celebrations take place outside of the raucous French Quarter, in family-filled neighborhoods such as the tree-lined Garden District. There, parents and kids await daytime parades, many utilizing modified ladders with seats on top. There, children are ideally positioned to catch beads and other “throws” — plastic coins, stuffed animals, cups, Frisbees, etc. — from passing floats. During Carnival season, tree branches along popular parade routes are often covered with hanging sets of gaudily colored beads.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 12.56.25 PMHere are some shots The Wine Jerk took:

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Literally meaning “Fat Tuesday,” Mardi Gras is the culmination of a weeks-long Carnival season that ends on Ash Wednesday. While impromptu foot and horseback parades had been a regular New Orleans occurrence for decades, it was in 1857 that the first “krewe” — private groups with semi-mythological namesakes that organize thematic parades — was established. This 1879 picture [below] details a parade by Rex, an all-male krewe whose leader is known as the “King of Carnival.” The Krewe of Rex established the official Mardi Gras colors of green, gold, and purple.

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Some important dates:

1699 – Oldest record of Mardi Gras celebration.

1743 – Written accounts of masks and Carnival Balls are widespread.

1856 – The first Krewe, the Mystic Krewe, of Comus is founded by 6 men in the French Quarter.

1875 – Mardi Gras is declared a state holiday in Louisiana.

1972 – Last year that  floats are allowed in the French quarter.

2006 – Mardi Gras is held, in a much smaller spectrum, after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

This is a photo from a parade that year. I feel something when I look at this. A mix of happy and sad.-WJ
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Don’t Eat the Baby

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 12.56.39 PMIn a city well renowned for its food culture, the act of purchasing a King Cake is a beloved part of Mardi Gras. Sold only during the Carnival season, king cake is a large braided Danish pastry, typically spiced with cinnamon and covered with green, purple, and gold sugar, corresponding to Mardi Gras’ colors. Socked away inside the cake is a tiny plastic baby, and whoever discovers the little tyke in their slice is required to buy the next king cake (or host the next party).

20150204_113042The above is from a front door in Metarie.