Sure, we all love to party during Mardi Gras, but sometimes it's easy to forget why. Over time, this citywide celebration has grown to be one of the most massive parties in the entire country and is definitely one you have to see to believe, but how did it all start?
As sinful as Mardi Gras can be, it's kind of amusing that the history of Mardi Gras stems from religious traditions. Mardi Gras in French means "Fat Tuesday" in reference to the Tuesday before the Lenten season where Christians, specifically Catholics, feast on rich, fatty foods before fasting for Lent which starts on Ash Wednesday.
Mardi Gras history started long before foreign settlers even set foot in the United States. The ancient Romans were thought to have the first Mardi Gras style celebration, called Lupercalia which honored the god Lupercus, the god of fertility and the god of agriculture and pastoral shepherds. Their celebration shared many qualities with the Mardi Gras we know today including days of eating and drinking for days on end.
When Christianity came to Rome, the church adopted and subtly changed the festival as a way to convert local pagans to Christianity. After Christianity prevailed in Rome, Lupercalia became a last fling of sorts before everyone buckled down and fasted for the 40 days of Lent between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
The tradition rapidly spread throughout all of Europe where each country would put their own spin on this carnival like celebration.
The French eventually brought the celebration to America in 1699 when a French explorer named Sieur d'Iberville landed in what we now know as Louisiana. His landing coincided with the Fat Tuesday date and he aptly named his point of entry, Point du Mardi Gras. Soon enough, more French settlers came to the area and the history of Mardi Gras in America was underway.
In short, this small, Mardi Gras history story is why we still celebrate over 300 years later since its first appearance in America. Now you know and can spread the word. Have a safe and merry Mardi Gras, New Orleans!