There are so many traditions that accompany Mardi Gras each year, it’s kind of like a second Louisiana Christmas. When hundreds of thousands of people flood your city, you know there’s a lot of fun to be had. There are parades, beads, colorful costumes, and you get to eat as much crawfish and king cake as you would like.
There’s nothing worse than being the guy or gal who gets left out because you don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s why we’ve put together a list of fun Mardi Gras facts you can impress your friends with. You’re welcome!
1. WHEN WAS THE FIRST MARDI GRAS?
We can thank the Krewe of Comus for the spectacle that we know as Mardi Gras. Way back in 1857, these New Orleanians got together and decided they should have a parade that ended in a giant ball for all of their friends. Pretty great idea, huh?
Related: The History Behind Saturday’s Mardi Gras Parades
2. ARE THE COLORS SIGNIFICANT & HOW WERE THEY SELECTED?
Great question, and yes, they are. What may seem like a strange combination of colors is recognized around the world as not only Mardi Gras, but New Orleans in general. Rex, the King of Carnival 1892, chose the fun color combo and their meanings: green stands for faith, purple symbolizes justice and gold represents power. See if you can fit each into your costume!
Fun fact – the LSU Tigers got their colors from Mardi Gras. In 1893, Dr. Charles Coates realized the absence of athletics on the LSU campus and formed a football team. While searching for colors and ribbon to put on their uniforms, he found plenty of purple and gold ribbon because of the upcoming Mardi Gras holiday. The rest is history.
3. IS MARDI GRAS THE SAME AS CARNIVAL?
This is a common misconception, don’t worry. Carnival is a global celebration, especially in heavy Catholic areas, that takes place before the Christian celebration of Lent. Here, the Carnival season begins on January 6 (King’s Day), but Mardi Gras actually just refers to Fat Tuesday, the celebratory day prior to Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. Now you know!
4. WHAT’S WITH THE KING CAKE BABIES?
Well when you say it like that, it does seem kind of strange. However, here in New Orleans, it’s tradition, and it’s a big deal. These cakes date back thousands of years in Europe when the person who found a medallion in their cake was determined the “king“. Fortunately for us, our traditions involve less sacrificial celebrations. Now, if you find the baby, you’re considered the king. But, it comes with a catch, you must buy the next cake or throw the next party. The baby inside is believed to represent Baby Jesus, but other legends suggest that a local bakery purchased a large number of cheap dolls, and in order to get rid of them, stuffed the cakes with the baby instead of the small king.
Crazy stat: More than 700,000 king cakes are sold each year in New Orleans during Carnival. And, another 50,000 are shipped out-of-state! PS: One of our favorites is the cream cheese filled from Dong Phuong!
5. HOW BIG ARE THE PARADES?
With over sixty parades to choose from during the entire Carnival season, there are krewes large and small. Two of the “super parades”, Endymion and Bacchus, which take place the Saturday and Sunday before Fat Tuesday, combine a total of 67 floats, 60 marching bands and over 250 units. These two krewes alone, have over 4,200 members and throw out more than 1.5 million cups, 2.5 million doubloons and millions of beads.
Now, what are you waiting for? Get out there and have some fun!
Can’t make it out to the parades this year? No worries! We have you covered with the New Orleans Advocate’s Krewe Cam sponsored by Gardner Realtors!