As an American holiday, Mardi Gras was birthed in Louisiana where most festivity still takes place. But the history of this over-the-top celebration begins thousands of years ago, with roots in pagan festivals honoring fertility and spring. These annual observances collided with Christianity when it came to Rome, and in an effort to lure people into the faith, the religious leaders determined a compromise. Lent is a period of fasting and repentance which takes place for 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday. By scheduling the festival to culminate on the Tuesday prior to the beginning of Lent, celebrants could eat all of the meat, eggs, and dairy in their house prior to the fast – hence the name “Fat Tuesday”. When France adopted the tradition, the name translated to “Mardi Gras”. But how did it get to America?
The French explorer Bienville landed on the shores of what would later become Louisiana on March 3, 1699 – which just happened to be Fat Tuesday. His men arranged an impromptu celebration, and named the land “Pointe du Mardi Gras”. Bienville would go on to establish several French settlements, one in particular which became New Orleans. The tradition of Mardi Gras continued in these settlements, usually with masked balls and lavish dinners known to be a bit hedonistic. The raucous holiday was banned briefly when the Spanish took over the territory but resumed when Louisiana became a state in 1812. A group of students from the area visited France and came back with a new tradition. They dressed up in vividly colored costumes and masks and danced and paraded through the streets. A few decades later, a secret society of businessmen added lavishly decorated floats and marching musicians; the parade was shrouded in mystery as to the participants and illuminated only with torches they carried. To this day, the tradition of “secret krewes” of revelers is still intact, and the parades and celebrations have gotten more and more extravagant and flamboyant.
Although New Orleans is still the reigning king of the Mardi Gras celebration, cities throughout the United States annually hold events and parades – including Tucson! If you are hosting a Mardi Gras party, don’t forget the beads, the coins, the King Cake – and the flowers. The gold, purple and green official colors make gorgeous bouquets, perfect for your celebration. Also, you may want to add some decadent gourmet treats to that bouquet – after all, “tomorrow the fast begins”. Casas Adobes Flower Shop is always proud to provide the most festive and beautiful flowers for any party, and they just don’t get any more festive than Mardi Gras!