Mardi Gras: Dancing in the Streets

Mondo Kayo revelers parade on St. Charles Avenue. (Photo by Flickr user radiate2357 via Wikimedia Commons)
Mondo Kayo revelers parade on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. (Photo by Flickr user radiate2357 via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday and Carnival among other celebrations around the world.

Here are some things you may not have known about the festivities.

The day celebrates the final day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

Lent is a Christian period of fasting, prayer and penance which starts 46 days before Easter. The Sundays during Lent are excluded from fasting, leaving 40 days. The 40 days are in commemoration of the amount of time Jesus spent fasting in the desert.

Carnival, of which today is the final day, typically starts about two weeks before Ash Wednesday. It is celebrated largely in Spanish-, Portuguese- and Italian-speaking countries. The largest Carnival celebration is in Rio de Janeiro, which attracts more than 2 million participants each day.

The term Shrove Tuesday, as it’s known in the nations of the British Commonwealth, is derived from the word “shrive,” which means confession of sins. In those same countries, it’s also sometimes known as Pancake Tuesday, which comes from the tradition of using  remaining eggs, milk and sugar to make pancakes before Lent.

The term Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, which refers to the tradition of eating fatty foods before fasting for Lent. In the United States, the celebration centers around New Orleans, Louisiana, and surrounding communities. The Mardi Gras season in Louisiana traditionally begins on the holiday Epiphany, which is on January 6. The celebrations include parades, and community gatherings. While much of the celebration centers on Bourbon Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter, parades have been banned there since 1973.

Our question: What is Ash Wednesday sometimes jokingly referred to as in New Orleans?

Today is Chocolate Day, Pizza Pie Day and Read in the Bathtub Day. It’s the birthday of U.S. President William Henry Harrison, singer-songwriter Carole King, and author Alice Walker.

In 1973, the top song in the U.S. was “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John; the No. 1 movie was “The Poseidon Adventure,” while “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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