The terms "Mardi Gras
" (mär`dē grä) and
"Mardi Gras season
", in English
, refer to events of the Carnival
celebrations, ending on the day before
. From the French
term "Mardi Gras
"Fat Tuesday"), has come to mean the whole period of activity
related to those events, beyond just the single day, often called
Mardi Gras Day or Fat Tuesday.The season can be designated by the
year, as in "Mardi Gras 2008".
The time varies from city to city, as some traditions consider
Mardi Gras as the Carnival period between Epiphany
or Twelfth Night
and Ash Wednesday.
Others treat the final three-day period as being Mardi Gras.
Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras
events begin in November, followed by mystic society balls on Thanksgiving,
then New Year's Eve
, formerly with parades on New
Year's Day, followed by parades and balls in January &
February, celebrating up to midnight before Ash Wednesday
cities most famous for their Mardi Gras celebrations include
Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil; Sydney, Australia and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Many other places have important Mardi Gras
celebrations as well.
Carnival is an important celebration in most of Europe (except in
Ireland and the United Kingdom where the festival is called
" ending on Shrove Tuesday
, and pancakes are the
tradition) and also in many parts of Latin
and the Caribbean
Belgian city of Binche the "Mardi
Gras" festival is the most important day of the year and the summit
of the Carnival of Binche.
Around 1000 Gilles
can be found dancing throughout the city
from morning till well past dusk, whilst traditional carnival songs
2003, the Carnival of Binche was proclaimed one of the Masterpieces
of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Carnival is an annual pre-Lenten
celebration in Brazil. the cities of Recife and Salvador are
well-known for their Carnival but the most notable is the one held
in Rio de
By Carnival's end on Mardi Gras, thousands
of people will have attended the festivities.
is nationally known and attracts thousands of people every
The party starts a week before the official date, with
electric trios "shaking" the Boa Viagem
district. On Friday, people take to the streets to enjoy themselves
to the sound of frevo
and to dance with
, ciranda, caboclinhos, afoxé
and Mangue Bit
groups. There is entertainment
throughout the city, such as when more than a million people follow
the Galo da Madrugada
Sunday the Pátio do Terço is the sight of Noite dos Tambores
, where maracatus honor slaves that died in
Rio de Janeiro
Janeiro has many Carnival choices, including the famous
Escolas de Samba (Samba
schools) parades in the sambódromo exhibition centre and the popular 'blocos de
carnaval', which parade in almost every corner of the city.
The most famous parades are the Cordão do Bola Preta
traditional carnival parades in the centre of the city, the
Suvaco do Cristo
parades in the Botanic Garden,
parades in the hills of Santa Teresa, the
Simpatia é Quase Amor
is one of the most popular parades
in Ipanema, and the Banda de Ipanema
which attracts a wide
range of revelers, including families and a wide spectrum of the
gay population (notably spectacular drag
According to the Guinness Book
de Bahia is the biggest street party on the planet. For an entire
week, almost two million people join the city's street
celebrations, which are divided into circuits: Barra/Ondina, Campo
Grande and Pelourinho. The music played during Carnaval includes
Axé and Samba-reggae. Many "blocos" participate in Carnaval, the
"blocos afros" like Malé Debalé, Olodum and Filhos de Gandhi being
the most famous of them.
celebrations are common throughout the country, especially in major
cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.
Quebec is where
Mardi Gras is most widely celebrated in Canada. Quebec City is famous for the Quebec Winter Carnival, which usually
starts on the first Friday of January and continues for 17
With close to one million participants, it has grown
to become the largest winter celebration in the world.
Lots of festivities are held at this event, including a winter
amusement park with attractions such as skiing, snow rafting, and
snow sled-slides. Montreal also holds a Mardi Gras celebration,
with events such as music festivals, comedy festivals, food
festivals, and street parties.
Caribbean, Carnival is celebrated
on a number of islands: Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Curaçao, Dominica,Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St.
Lucia, Saint Vincent and the
Martin, Trinidad and Tobago and United States Virgin Islands are some of the celebrants.
Colombian cities celebrate carnivals in the period between
Twelfth Night and Mardi
The most important of these celebrations is Barranquilla's Carnival
(Spanish: Carnaval de Barranquilla)
, which starts on the
Saturday before Ash Wednesday and ends on Mardi Gras. The roots of
Barranquilla's Carnival date back to the 19th century, and is
reputed for being second in size to Rio's, but is far less
commercialized. The Carnival of
Barranquilla was proclaimed by UNESCO, in November
2003, as one of the Masterpieces
of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
In Denmark the celebration is called Fastelavn
. Fastelavn evolved from the Roman Catholic
tradition of celebrating in
the days before Lent
, but after Denmark became
nation, the holiday became
less specifically religious. This holiday occurs seven weeks before
Easter Sunday and is sometimes described as a Nordic Halloween
with children dressing up in costumes
and gathering treats for the Fastelavn
feast. The holiday
is generally considered to be a time for children's fun and family
games. The term "Fastelavn" is a Low Saxon loanword imported from Northern Germany: Fastelavend [ˈfastl̩.ˌɒːvm̩t],
Fastelabend [ˈfastl̩.ˌɒːbm̩t] and Fastlaam (also
spelled Fastlom) [ˈfastl̩ɒːm], related to Low Saxon
Vastelaovend in the eastern parts of the Netherlands and to Dutch
France records that in the year of 1294, the Comte de
Provence Charles II, Duc d’Anjou began taking his holidays in Nice
to take part in the festivities of Carnival complete with balls, masquerades, bonfires, jugglers, mimes,
All that was required to take part was a costume
and a mask. So much revelry was had that even the church could not
control the more obscene aspects. The city's records, however, show
that the celebration hit a high note in the period of time they
call the Belle Époque
, in the late
19th century to early 20th century before the World Wars. The city
of Nice still holds its own
, lasting two weeks and celebrating Mardi Gras on the
last day. The Nice Carnaval has parades of flower-covered floats
and brilliant night-time light displays.
Other French cities also hold
The celebration of Mardi Gras in Germany is called Karneval
. Fastnacht means "Eve of the
Beginning of the Fast", and thus it is celebrated until the day
before Ash Wednesday. The most famous parades are held in Köln
(Cologne), Mainz, and Düsseldorf on Monday before Ash Wednesday on
"Rosenmontag" i.e. Lundi Gras.
celebration of Mardi Gras in Guatemala is an eight day celebration
Goa, India, the Carnival is celebrated for three days
culminating on Fat Tuesday.
Goa was a Portuguese colony
until 1961. In Kerala State the
carnival parade is called "Rasa" (fun in Sanskrit) and happens on
the night before Ash Wednesday.
There are typically no masks
in the celebration, unlike in Goa.
Venice is home to
one of the most famous Carnival celebrations in the world, in
addition to one of the oldest. The Carnival of Venice
(or Carnevale di Venezia in Italian) was first recorded in
Venetian shop window with Carnival
The subversive nature of the festival is reflected in
the many laws created over the centuries in Italy attempting to
restrict celebrations and often banning the wearing of masks
. Masks have always been a central feature of the
Venetian carnival, traditionally people were allowed to wear them
between the festival of Santo Stefano
(St. Stephen's Day
, at the start of the
Carnival season and midnight of Shrove
). As masks were also allowed during Ascension
and from October 5 to
, people could spend a large
proportion of the year in disguise 
. Maskmakers (mascherari
enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and
their own guild
. In 1797 Venice became part of
the Austrian-held Kingdom of
when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio
. The Austrians
took control of the city on January 18, 1798 and it fell into a
decline which also effectively brought Carnival celebrations to a
halt for almost two centuries. Carnival was outlawed by the
government in the 1930s. It was not
until a modern mask shop was founded in the 1980s that Carnival
enjoyed a revival.
Carnival is celebrated in several Panamanian cities such as Las
Tablas, Ocu, Chitre, Penenomé and Panama City. Carnival in this
country is characterized by the soaking of people mainly via the
use of water trucks and hoses. The celebrations tend to last
through a four day holiday weekend.
In Spain it's called 'Carnaval'. The Carnival in Santa Cruz de
Tenerife is without doubt the most recognized carnival in Spain.
It's celebrated in the month of February. During two weeks the
"Murgas" take place and sing burlesque songs, the Queen of Carnival
is elected within this time.
In Sweden the celebration is called Fettisdagen
. It comes from the word "fett" (fat)
and "tisdag" (Tuesday). Originally, this was the only day one
should eat semlor
(fat Tuesday buns), but
these are now found in most grocery stores and bakeries preceding
the holiday, and up until Easter
Mardi Gras 2009 Celebrations in the
French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana USA (Picture taken outside
Molly's Pub on Decatur Street)
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 as a
sedate French Catholic
tradition with the Le Moyne brothers, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and
Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend
France's claim on the territory of Louisiane, which included what are now
the U.S. states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
The expedition, led by Iberville
the mouth of the Mississippi River
on the evening of March 2, 1699, Lundi
, not yet knowing it was the river explored and claimed for
France by René-Robert
Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle
in 1683. The party proceeded
upstream to a place on the west bank about 60 miles downriver from
Orleans is today, where a small tributary emptied into the
great river, and made camp.
This was on March 3, 1699, Mardi
Gras day, so in honor of this holiday, Iberville
named the spot Point du Mardi
(French: "Mardi Gras Point") and called the small
tributary Bayou Mardi Gras. Bienville went on to
found the settlement of Mobile, Alabama in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana, and in 1703 the Mardi
Gras tradition began with celebrations by the French settlers in
that city. By 1720, Biloxi had been made capital of Louisiana.
French customs were introduced there at that time. In 1723, the capital
of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, founded in 1718. The tradition there
expanded to the point that it became synonymous with that city, and
closely associated with the slogan Laissez les bon temps rouler
and the nickname Big
In more recent times several other U.S.
cities without a French Catholic heritage have instituted the
celebration of Mardi Gras.