Mardi Gras dates back to pagan spring and fertility rites. The Romans added debauchery when they incorporated the rites of the festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. The church incorporated it rather than banishing it entirely.
During the age of exploration, the explorers brought the tradition with them to the new lands. Most predominantly Catholic countries celebrate Carnival. In New Orleans this festival is and always has been Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.
It is the beginning of the lenten season of fasting. Originally the feasting of Mardi Gras was to use up all the meat and dairy because lent only consisted of fish or fasting.
According to the site Mardi Gras New Orleans it was French Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville that began the celebrations. He named a plot of land 60 miles south of New Orleans Pointe du Mardis Gras since it was the evening before Mardi Gras.
The very first Mardi Gras was celebrated in Fort Louis de Louisiane which is now Mobile.
Over time the tradition of parading a bulls head turned into parading an actual bull. The first revellers were students that had seen the festival in Paris.
Green Purple and Gold
Why are the colours of Mardi Gras Green Purple and Gold? The colours were introduced to honour the Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff. They were originally his family colours. They are Green for faith, Purple for justice and Gold for power.
Mardis Gras Beads and Throws
The throwing of beads, doubloons and other trinkets began with the krewes in the 1870’s and has become a major part of the celebration.
Different Krewes throw different items. There are special doubloons at the Bacchus parade that are thrown from the Kings float. These are collectors items.
Zulu coconuts seem to be incredibly precious as well. They were originally just plain coconuts but over time became elaborately decorated. For an interesting read on Zulu coconuts try this site from nola.com
The iconic Mardis Gras food is King Cake. Absolutely delicious, more bread than cake and beautifully decorated it is a must have.
My favourite all time cajun recipe is Crawfish Etouffee. It has all the wonderful cajun spice but with a subtlety of flavour that just makes you feel good. Southern Living has 31 New Orleans Classics for Mardi Gras so you can cook like a native.
To all of you out there Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!