HISTORY : Mardi Gras
Awash in a whirl of colors, costumes, and revelry, Mardi Gras is perhaps the world's most awesome and audacious festival. Occurring each year before the forty day period of Lent, "Fat Tuesday" is a final opportunity to explore sensual, worldly delights before a season of religious restraint and penitance. Actually, the tradition of a pre-Lenten carnival originated in second century Rome; indeed, the very word "carnival" is derived from the Latin words for "flesh" (flesh) and "farewell" (vale). In Roman tradition, the revelers delivered themselves up to voluntary madnesses; they would don masks, adorn themselves in the manner of spectres and spirits, and give themselves to Bacchus and Venus--gods of wine and love--who were symbols of all things diurnal and sensual. From Rome, this "farewell to the flesh" carnival spread throughout Europe before reaching the Americas; indeed, the first occurrence of the Mardi Gras festival as we know it occurred in the New Orleans of 1827. Recently returned from university in France, a group of students were inspired by Parisian celebrations to don outlandish costumes and dance through the streets of New Orleans. In the years that followed, the festival garnered more and more popularity and acceptance among the people of New Orleans, becoming increasingly ornate and elaborate. In 1833, a local plantation owner named Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville began the monumental task of creating an organized Mardi Gras celebration. However, it was not until 1837 that the first Mardi Gras parade graced the streets of New Orleas. It began with but one single float, but today the Mardi Gras parade winds throughout the New Orleans streets for miles.
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