Mardi Gras Meaning


Mardi Gras in the United States

Courtesy of Wikipedia

While not observed nationally throughout the United States, a number of traditionally ethnic French cities and regions in the country have notable celebrations. Mardi Gras arrived in North America as a French Catholic tradition with the Le Moyne brothers,[13] Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France’s claim on the territory of Louisiane, which included what are now the U.S. states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

The expedition, led by Iberville, entered the mouth of the Mississippi River on the evening of March 2, 1699, Lundi Gras. They did not yet know it was the river explored and claimed for France by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1683. The party proceeded upstream to a place on the west bank about 60 miles downriver from where New Orleans is today, and made camp. This was on March 3, 1699, Mardi Gras, so in honor of this holiday, Iberville named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: “Mardi Gras Point”) and called the nearby tributary Bayou Mardi Gras. Bienville went on to found the settlement of Mobile, Alabama in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana.[14] In 1703 French settlers in Mobile began the Mardi Gras celebration tradition.[13][15][16] By 1720, Biloxi had been made capital of Louisiana. The French customs had already accompanied colonists who settled there.[13]

In 1723, the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, founded in 1718.[14] The tradition has expanded to the point that it became strongly associated with the city in popular perception, and embraced by residents of New Orleans beyond those of French or Catholic heritage. Mardi Gras celebrations are part of the basis of the slogan, Laissez les bons temps rouler, (Let the good times roll) and the nickname “Big Easy”.[13] Mobile, Alabama, the former capital of New France, also has a long tradition of celebrating Mardi Gras. Other cities along the Gulf Coast formerly occupied and owned by the French from Pensacola, Florida, and its suburbs to Lafayette, Louisiana, have active Mardi Gras celebrations. In the rural Acadiana area, many Cajuns celebrate with the Courir de Mardi Gras, a tradition that dates to medieval celebrations in France.[17] In more recent times several other U.S. cities without a French heritage have instituted a kind of Mardi Gras celebration; for instance, the UETA Jamboozie festival is held late January in Laredo, Texas.