What Does Mardi Gras Mean and Why Do People Celebrate It

Mardi Gras started out as a celebration tied to the Catholic religious practice of Lent. Lent is a time of prayer and preparation for the coming of Easter lasting 40 days. In Louisiana, traditionally, Catholics were very strict and would give up eating meat, most dairy products, any food that was considered privileged, and all alcohol such as wine. They also give up all dancing and party going for the entire 40 days. For many people this was very hard to do but something they felt was important. The very last day before Lent begins was called “Mardi Gras” and in French this means “Fat Tuesday”. It is called this because many people took this last day to eat meat that had been fattened up and to eat all the fatty foods in the house before Lent began.

Though Mardi Gras started out strictly as a holiday celebrated by Catholics, it has now become a cultural holiday claimed by all Louisiana natives.

Homes in Louisiana are often decorated for Mardi Gras the same way families might decorate for Christmas. Photo courtesy of flickr user DoctorWho.

Mardi Gras celebrations begin Jan. 6th and last until Lent begins. For many Louisiana natives, this is an entire 7 weeks of celebration! In the last few days before Lent begins, almost the entire state of Louisiana is turned into one huge party with local parades and private celebrations!