Mardi Gras Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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You have probably heard of Mardi Gras. 

Maybe you know that it’s a holiday. Maybe you associate it with the massive parties and parades in the city of New Orleans. Well, there is most likely much more to Mardi Gras than you know. 

Mardi Gras is an incredibly historic holiday. It serves an important purpose, and the culture around it has evolved over the years, giving it an incredibly rich and interesting history. 

So, today’s word of the day is Mardi Gras. After reading this complete guide to the word Mardi Gras, its meaning, its history, and its traditions, you’ll have a full understanding so you can converse about it with confidence. 

Let’s get started. 

What’s the Definition of Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is actually a French phrase. The phrase literally translates to “Fat Tuesday,” with the word “Mardi” meaning “Tuesday” and “Gras” meaning “fat.” Here is the definition of Mardi Gras as we currently understand it:

  • A holiday held 40 days before Easter, the day before Ash Wednesday, just before the beginning of the season of Lent. The holiday is associated with the city of New Orleans, massive parties, and the famous Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.

At Mardi Gras every year, there is an incredible amount of celebration. Massive parties are held throughout the week leading up to the day, and there are parades, festive masks, a lot of colors, and a lot of eating and drinking. 

This holiday holds a special place in the heart of New Orleans and the surrounding areas of Louisiana and Alabama, as this is where the holiday was truly established. 

What Is the History of Mardi Gras?

Contrary to what you might expect, Mardi Gras did not actually start in the city of New Orleans. In fact, it didn’t even truly start in the United States. The holiday actually takes its earliest origins in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries

In the Catholic parts of Europe, where Lent was an incredibly important season, a celebration developed on the day before Lent that was meant to get rid of all of the excess things that you wouldn’t be using during the fasting season. 

The Christian celebration began in Rome and Venice, Italy, and eventually made its way to France. There, it was called Boeuf Gras, which translates to “fatted calf.” The Christian holiday is also called Shrove Tuesday. 

During the 40 days of Lent, they were not supposed to eat fat or meat, so they got rid of all of it all at once, the day before Lent began. In 1699, when French explorers landed at the mouth of the Mississippi River (at a place they named Point Du Mardi Gras), they brought this celebration to North America, and by 1703 they called it Mardi Gras. 

The first Mardi Gras is believed to have been celebrated in Mobile, Alabama. And by the 1730s, Mardi Gras celebrations made their way to New Orleans. 

What Are Some Example Sentences for Mardi Gras?

Here are some examples of the phrase Mardi Gras being used in a sentence. 

  • My family goes all out for Mardi Gras; we make our own masks and participate in the local parades. 
  • Now that I’m 21, I want to take a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year. 
  • There is no party like the carnival celebration for Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
  • On Bourbon Street and in the French Quarter, the Mardi Gras festivals go absolutely wild!
  • Mardi Gras is the last day before the fasts during Lent, so we have to make sure we participate in the revelry.

What Are Common Mardi Gras Traditions?

One of the most common and important Mardi Gras traditions is the masked balls that take place throughout the city. These masquerades are put on by what are called krewes. These krewes are clubs throughout the city that each have their own party. There is a king and queen of each party that is kept secret until the night of the event. 

Today, the Krewe of Comus is the oldest organization that puts on Mardi Gras festivities every year. They have been doing so since 1856.

You can’t have proper Mardi Gras merrymaking without king cake. The cake was associated with the Feast of Epiphany in Europe, but when it came to America, it became associated with Mardi Gras. It’s a cake made with cinnamon, sugar, and pecans, it’s covered with bright colors, and there might even be a plastic baby baked inside. 

If you get a slice that has the baby, it symbolizes luck and prosperity, and you are crowned the king or queen of the evening!

The Mardi Gras carnival season wouldn’t be complete without a proper parade. Every year, there are dozens of parades. There are multiple on The Twelfth Night of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day), which begins carnival season, and there are many after. The processions are full of vibrant colors, flamboyant masks, and crazy trinkets, and the Rex Krewe is famous for its incredible parades.

Now, Mardi Gras is not so much of a religious holiday. Rather, it’s a time when the revelers can get out of all of the partying and debauchery they can. Mardi Gras is well known for being an absolutely insane party, especially in New Orleans. 

An Amazing Holiday

Mardi Gras is quite an incredible holiday, and many people don’t know what it is, let alone know its vibrant history. And now you know everything you need to know about Mardi Gras, what it means, how the holiday came to be, and the traditions that it encompasses. Use Mardi Gras in your conversation and your writing with confidence!

Furthermore, if you need a refresher on Mardi Gras and its meaning, come back to this article for the information you need.


American Experience | New Orleans | People & Events | PBS 

The making of Mardi Gras: the little known history behind the celebration | Drury Mirror 

Mardi Gras Season in New Orleans | America’s Library