1st Lake Blog

5 Fun Facts About Mardi Gras History

You might have heard a bit about Mardi Gras history – mainly that it is a pretty big deal in New Orleans. It’s been called the biggest free party on the planet.

Mardi Gras takes place on the day before Ash Wednesday, but don’t be fooled, Mardi Gras festivities take place on more than just one day. Carnival season begins weeks before Fat Tuesday. 

Mardi Gras has a rich and storied past that has resulted in lots of fun, elaborate traditions. It has played a huge role in shaping Louisiana culture. So, in the spirit of the season, we’re sharing a few fun facts about Mardi Gras history.

Read on to learn more about the biggest free party on the planet.

King Cake, a delicious treat that's an important part of Mardi Gras history, is enjoyed during Carnival season in New Orleans

photo by Eric Wagner via Flickr

The First American Mardi Gras Was Celebrated by French Explorers

The first American Mardi Gras was celebrated on March 3, 1699, by French explorers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville near what eventually became present-day New Orleans. They named the location Point du Mardi Gras.

New Orleans’ Carnival Season Begins on Twelfth Night

Since the 1870s, Twelfth Night has been recognized as the official start of Carnival Season. Twelfth Night is always on January 6, and is known as the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

In New Orleans, it’s common to wait until Twelfth Night to have the first slice of king cake of the year. In fact, local superstition states that if king cake is eaten before Twelfth Night, it will rain on Mardi Gras day.

The Mardi Gras Colors Each Have a Specific Meaning

The bright and festive medley of colors – purple, green, and gold – is inescapable during Carnival season. It is believed that the Krewe of Rex chose these colors as their color scheme in 1872 for the first daytime parade.

Purple, known as being a royal color, represents Justice. Green represents Faith. And gold represents Power.

Originally, beads of these colors were intended to be tossed to individuals that best reflected these characteristics.

Mardi Gras Masks Broke Social Barriers

Mask wearing is one of the most iconic Mardi Gras traditions. Originally, masks were worn so that people of all classes could mingle freely with one another, which wasn’t common in everyday life. 

Did You Know: New Orleans float riders are required to wear masks by law.

The First Zulu Coconut Was Thrown Over 100 Years Ago

The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club is one of the most popular Mardi Gras Krewes in existence, as well as one of the oldest traditionally black krewes.

The Krewe of Zulu has become known for handing out coconuts during their parades. They are beautifully decorated and heavily sought after by Mardi Gras parade goers. 

The first mention of a Zulu coconut dates back to 1910!

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