A Brief History of Mardi Gras

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There are tons of in-depth articles out there with a lengthy history of Mardi Gras, Carnival, and Lent. We wanted to break it down into some bite-sized basics to give you an idea of how Mardi Gras has evolved. So let’s get into the delicious details!

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) actually dates back to ancient Rome, and is a combination of two celebrations. One was the celebration of the god of agriculture, Saturn. The other was essentially our equivalent of Valentine’s Day. When Christians arrived—like with many Christian holidays—they took parts of the pagan festivals and incorporated them into their own traditions, this time being the Lenten preparations. This was typically done because it was easier to incorporate them into their traditions than to abolish them altogether. If ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

In the Christian faith, Fat Tuesday comes just before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent—forty days of fasting before Easter. Forty days is a long time for most, but it’s even longer for an egg! Fat Tuesday became a celebration that helped Christians use up valuable fatty foods that would inevitably spoil if not consumed before the end of Lent. These foods included lard, eggs, cheeses, meats, and milk.

Traditions on consumption now vary based on where in the world you look. In certain parts of the world, you have Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, which is a veritable pancake feast! Everyone knows pancakes are perfect, but they’re also the perfect cross section of ingredients that are traditionally abstained from during Lent. (If you prefer to put those in a waffle press, that’s okay too!)

Of course, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the most recognized form of this celebration in the United States, due to the French making it a full blown fun celebration. In modern times, Mardi Gras has expanded to include a mixture of cultural traditions to celebrate every year. Parades, colorful decorations, masks—all of it brings people together from all over the globe. Annually, New Orleans receives nearly one million tourists during carnival season. That’s a whole lotta pancakes!

There’s no denying that Mardi Gras is fun, but it’s a holiday a lot of people celebrate without truly understanding. Some would have you believe that Mardi Gras is just a hedonistic celebration of indulgence, but when you look at the origins, it has just evolved to fit a modern time! Fat Tuesday is all about enjoying things while you can, making use of what’s in front of you, and coming together when things get hard…and also eating lots of delicious snacks.For delicious foods that won’t expire, check out the Yummy World plushies in our Mardi Gras collection!