Mardi Gras Around the Globe
by Talia Trackim
We know Mardis Gras for its dazzling parades, elaborate costumes, and banners of purple, green, and gold that lie in the heart of New Orleans. What started as a tradition in Medieval Europe has become an international celebration, ensuring a party everywhere around the globe. Mardis Gras is the same day as Fat Tuesday, or the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the start of the Catholic Lent season. This year, it will be celebrated on February 9th.
Mardis Gras in New Orleans, USA
The Mardis Gras celebration is truly a day of celebration in New Orleans. The work world shuts down and everyone comes together to celebrate. The day is filled with parades, including floats run by krewes, or organizations that develop floats for the parade. The Krewes showcase their unique customs by adorning the floats with personal decorations and themes. Parade goers bring bags to catch beads and “throws” that are tossed off the floats. Mardis Gras celebrants also attend balls and parties, complete with delicious foods such as King Cake, a puffy cake that contains a little plastic baby inside. Whoever receives the slice of cake with the baby inside has to host the King Cake party the next year. All of the celebrants wear masks, which originated as a way for people to mingle between classes and get away with things they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.
Mardis Gras in Nice, France
The French celebrate Carnival, or “carne levare,” which translates to “away with the meat.” Carnival is a glamorous celebration filled with rich, fatty foods and festivities in preparation for Lent. The first Carnival celebration in Nice dates back to 1294, and it is now a ten day celebration leading up to Mardis Gras. Carnival is filled with parades every day, masked balls, and elaborate parties. Carnival is also famed for its Bataille de Fleurs, or Battle of the Flowers. Occurring at the pinnacle of the festival, this event hosts twenty floats adorned in locally grown flowers, with costumed float-habitants tossing thousands of flowers into the crowd.
Mardis Gras in Venice, Italy
Carnevale Venezia is a twelve day long celebration, concluding with Fat Tuesday. The term Carnivale, similarly to Carnival in France, is derived from the words, “carne vale,” or “farewell to meat.” Events unique to Carnevale include La Festa delle Marie and Il Volo dell'Angelo. La Festa delle Marie originates to 10th century Venice, with the consecration of twelve young brides adorned in riches and jewels on the day of the Purification of Mary. The women were kidnapped by pirates, but were later rescued. To commemorate this event, twelve of the poorest brides of Venice were selected to be given riches and fancy clothes. Today, this tradition is remembered by the selection of twelve women to portray the twelve “Marias” during La Festa delle Marie. Il Volo dell'Angelo commences with a person flying along a rope from the San Marco Bell tower to the middle of the square. Carnivale is filled with parades, floats, costumes, masks, and balls, all celebrating before the beginning of the Lenten season.
Mardis Gras in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival is perhaps one of the best known festivals around the world. Known for its electrifying music and dancers, spectacular parades, and all around astounding festivities, Carnival attracts visitors from all over the globe. Carnival is held during the week before Lent. Arguably the most famous aspect of Carnival is the Samba dancing and music. Samba is rooted in African tradition, and it includes primarily string and percussion instruments. Parades are held in the Sambadrome, a large stadium that serves as a stage for different Samba schools to compete against. Each school adopts a specific theme and designs floats and performances to showcase it. Of course, Carnival wouldn’t be complete without lively performances, elaborate balls, and joyful celebration.
Mardis Gras in Sydney, Australia
Australians take a different approach to Mardis Gras by dedicating it to the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) community. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras is a three week long celebration with the goal of celebrating the acceptance of the non-CIS community. The festival is alive with colors, glitter, and dancing, opening with the raising of a rainbow flag. A vibrant parade of thousands of people opens with a ride from the Dykes on Bikes, a multi-chaptered lesbian motorcycle club. Attendees can attend shows, exhibitions, and speeches. The celebration goes long into the night, and is alive with love, humanity, and acceptance.
Mardis Gras is a tradition all over the world rich with culture and festivities. If you visit any of these countries during the festival season, be sure to grab your mask and join in the celebration.