The History of Mardi Gras

The History of Mardi Gras : Lupercalia

The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to Ancient Romans. The Ancient Romans would celebrate Lupercalia in mid February (Feb. 15). Lupercalia was a circus- like festival that honored the Roman diety Lupercus, the god of shepherds. Italy Rome 

The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to Ancient Romans.  Presentation on theme:

“The History of Mardi Gras. Lupercalia The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to Ancient Romans. The Ancient Romans would celebrate Lupercalia in mid.”

— Presentation transcript:

Published by Lillian Fowler


1 The History of Mardi Gras 

2 Lupercalia

The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to Ancient Romans. The Ancient Romans would celebrate Lupercalia in mid February (Feb. 15). Lupercalia was a circus- like festival that honored the Roman diety Lupercus, the god of shepherds. Italy Rome 

3 Carnival

When Christianity arrived in Rome, the early church fathers decided to incorporate certain pagan rituals rather than to abolish them. Carnival became a period of abandonment and merriment that preceded the penance of Lent (a symbolic Christian pentinence of 40 days commencing on Ash Wednesday and ending at Easter). 

4 Carnival cont.

During Carnival, there were several days of feasting. Participants would dress in spectre (ghost) costumes and wear masks. Eventually, the festival spread to other European countries. 

5 One Version of Mardi Gras in America

Mardi Gras arrived in America with French explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville in 1699. He launched an expedition up the Mississippi River. Iberville set up camp on the Westbank of the river and named the site Point du Mardi Gras in honor of the festival which was being celebrated that very day in France (March 3). 

6 Other versions of Mardi Gras in America

One version states that Mardi Gras celebrations arrived with early French settlers in the state of Louisiana. Another version states that Mardi Gras in New Orleans arrived in 1827 with a group of students who recently returned from Paris. These students put on costumes and danced through the streets. The inhabitants of New Orleans quickly caught their enthusiasm and followed them. 

7 Meaning of Mardi Gras

“Mardi Gras” literally means “Fat Tuesday” in French. It is called this because Mardi Gras falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the last day before Lent (a forty day season of prayer and fasting observed by the Roman Catholic Church that ends on Easter Sunday). “Fat Tuesday” is thought to have come from the ancient Pagan custom of parading a fat ox through the town streets during holidays, which were filled with excessive eating, and drinking prior to a period of fasting. 

8 Mardi Gras in New Orleans

The exact date of the first Mardi Gras cannot be determined. But it is known that from 1827 to 1833, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras festivals became more and more elaborate. 

9 Mardi Gras in New Orleans cont.

The first documented parade occurred in 1837. These parades centered around maskers on foot, in carriages, and on horseback. Mardi Gras quickly gained a negative reputation due to the violent behavior associated with the maskers of the 1840’s and 1850’s. Eventually, the press started to call for an end to the festivities. 

10 Mardi Gras in New Orleans cont.

Luckily in 1857, six men saved Mardi Gras when they formed the Comus organization. This organization showed that the celebration could be safe and added beauty to the festivities. The Mystick Krewe of Comus presented its 1857 Torchlight Parade with a theme taken from “Paradise Lost” written by John Milton. 

11 Comus

Comus was the first organization to use the word “krewe” to describe itself and to name itself after a mythological character. They also started the customs of: having a secret Carnival society, having a parade with a unifying theme with floats, and of having a ball after the parade. 



12 Twelfth Knight Revelers

The Twelfth Knight Revelers first made their appearance in 1871. This is when they began the custom of giving a young woman a cake with a gold bean hidden inside of the cake. This is the origin of the king cake and this young woman was made the first queen of Mardi Gras. 

13 Rex

The Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich Romanov of Russia visited New Orleans in 1872 and the Krewe of Rex made their debut. Rex began the tradition of “King of Carnival” and introduced the official colors of Mardi Gras; purple, gold, and green. Purple is symbolic of justice, gold is symbolic of power, and green is symbolic of faith. 

14 Other Krewes

Proteus formed in 1882. They debuted with an Egyptian mythology theme. In 1890, The Jefferson City Buzzards was organized. They were the first marching club. The Original Illinois Club was formed in 1894. They were the first black organization. 

15 Other Krewes cont.

Les Mysterieuses was the first female organization and formed in 1896. Zulu was formed in 1809 as a spoof to Rex and quickly became popular. King Zulu wore a lard can crown and had a banana stalk scepter. The Krew of Alla was formed in 1934 and brought the celebration to the Westbank. 

16 Mardi Gras Today

Today, there are many Krewes and Mardi Gras is not only celebrated in New Orleans, but many other states and some countries. Mardi Gras is called the “Greatest Free Show on Earth!” because the parade organizations are totally funded by its members. Most of these krewes have restrictive membership policies and have developed from private social clubs. 

17 Citations

“The History of Mardi Gras.” Welcome to East Jefferson Parish’s Exclusive Community Web Site. 17 May 2009. “Mardi Gras History | Mardi Gras in New Orleans.” Mardi Gras New Orleans | Mardi Gras in New Orleans. 17 May 2009<http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/ history.html>. “The Traditions Of Mardi Gras.” Penumbra. 17 May 2009. 


%d bloggers like this: