Mardi Gras is the name of the carnival that is celebrated in New Orleans (Louisiana), Mobile (Alabama), in Mississippi, in Québec, etc.
Its name is a French expression, which translates directly into Spanish as "long, fatty or flabby Tuesday", traditionally called "Shrove Tuesday".
It is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday. The so-called "Fat Tuesday" refers to the fact that it was the last day to enjoy both culinary and carnal pleasures before the time of abstinence that marks the beginning of Lent and Easter.
The celebration of Mardi Gras is among the largest and most famous in the world. The Carnival season in New Orleans, which traces its origins in the Catholic tradition, begins on January 6, the night of Epiphany. Two weeks before Shrove Tuesday, a daily parade can be observed. The most colorful and elaborate parades and celebrations take place on the
last five days of the season.
The celebrations start very early on Mardi Gras day. In the Uptown district, the Zulu parade passes first followed by the Rex parade; both end on Canal Street. Several small clubs organize floats that follow Rex's parade. Some other clubs organize marches and small events, like the Pair-o-Dice Tumblers that go from bar to bar throughout the day.
The closing of Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras formally ends when the Kings of Rex and their "subjects", the King and Queen of Carnival and the King and Queen of the Mistick Krewe of Comus (the oldest Mardi Gras Rock), gather. When this meeting is held, a dance is held in the municipal auditorium of the city.
At midnight a squad of policemen, mounted on horses, begins to clear Bourbon Street. This event means that Mardi Gras has ended and Lent has begun. It is considered inappropriate and disrespectful to wear Mardi Gras necklaces during Lent.
Costumes and masks are worn almost exclusively by members of the peñas in the days before Mardi Gras but it is common to see people wearing them on "Shrove Tuesday". All banks are closed that day. The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple, gold and green.
These colors are said to have been chosen in 1892 when Rex's parade had the "Meaning of Colors" as the theme for its floats.
Purple = Justice, Green = Faith and Gold = Power.