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Mardi Gras: Plenty of History Among the Historionics

Mardi Gras in New Orleans….it’s on the bucket list.  (So too is Carnivale in Rio but let’s be realistic!)  Mardi Gras is one huge decadent party with a very religious origin.  All those “beads” aside, here are seven facts about the history of Fat Tuesday :

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1.)    It’s the storm before the calm. In countries all over the world, Fat Tuesday is the “last hurrah” — aka a great excuse to stuff your face with carbs and rich foods! — before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40-day observation of and fasting associated with Lent.

2.)    Overshores, it’s all about pancakes. In the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, they call it Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday, as their tradition involves eating pancakes specifically.  

3.)    In the UK, you can get a workout in while eating your pancakes! Across the pond, pancake races are held in villages and towns. As legend goes, back in 1444, a housewife from the town of Olney was so busy making pancakes for pre-Lenten that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the Shriving service. She ran out of the house to the church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake.

4.)    Mardi Gras isn’t just one day or one week. While here in the States, we tend to only hear about the celebration in New Orleans for a

few days out of the year, Fat Tuesday is the final culmination of an entire Carnival season, which lasts six weeks! It kicks off on January 6 on a day called “Epiphany,” which is 12 days after Christmas and celebrates the Wise Men who brought gifts to Jesus.

5.)    You can enjoy King Cake for six weeks! The traditional wreath-shaped, purple, green, and gold-colored cake is eaten throughout the

Carnival season — not just on Fat Tuesday. (Talk about a recipe for weight gain!)

6.)     New Orleans’ Mardi Gras is about as old as the U.S. itself. French settlers who ended up in the Louisiana area held pre-Lenten masquerade balls as early as the late 1700s.

7.)     Louisiana has made the holiday official. While Fat Tuesday is celebrated in various states, LA is the only one to make it a legal holiday.  (

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