MINT HILL, NC – Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday” is celebrated annually on the day before Ash Wednesday. Predominantly observed by Roman Catholics, Mardi Gras is a prelude to the season of Lent, 40 days characterized by fasting and penance that lead up to Easter Sunday.
Mardi Gras’ roots reach back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, like the Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders incorporated the traditions of Mardi Gras into their own rituals.
Today, Mardi Gras is both a Christian holiday and a popular cultural phenomenon that is celebrated in countries around the world. Celebrations of Carnival in Brazil and Venice and of Mardi Gras in New Orleans draw numerous tourists every year.
Mardi Gras 2023 falls on Tuesday, February 21, but there’s no need to travel to New Orleans – or even uptown Charlotte – to celebrate. Louisiana may be the only state where Mardi Gras is a legal holiday, but you can partake in some of Mardi Gras’ most fun traditions right in your own home.
“Purple, green and gold rule,” says Mint Hill resident and New Orleans native Mary Iglesias Andolina. “You can tell when it is Mardi Gras from outside and in. I used to do it up big when we were a big family here.”
The traditional colors of purple, green and gold date back to the first parade led by the Krewe of Rex in 1872. The colors are said to symbolize justice, faith and power. Beads are a staple for decorating your home inside and out in New Orleans; garlands, flags, balloons, banners and flowers are also common.
Enjoy a King Cake
Part cinnamon roll, part coffee cake – always decorated in purple, green and gold – King Cake is a staple of Mardi Gras season. The name refers to the biblical story of the three kings who bring gifts to the baby Jesus; accordingly, a small plastic baby representing Jesus is hidden inside each true King Cake. Tradition has it that whomever receives the slice with the baby in it will be blessed with luck and prosperity – but also has to bring the next King Cake or throw the next party.
For an authentic King Cake over 700 miles north of New Orleans, look no further than Sweets and Savories by JoyMarie. JoyMarie Ruela’s cinnamon swirled or cream cheese- filled king cakes are concocted from a recipe that originated with a nun and has been passed down through generations. You can reach JoyMarie at 631-816-0456 or on Facebook.
Whether you’re in a krewe or not, costuming is a huge part of celebrating Mardi Gras. Krewes often have intricately designed, coordinated costumes, but anything flashy and fun works, and purple, green, gold and beads are always welcome.
You can also consider donning a mask; in fact, they’re required by law for float riders in New Orleans. In the old days of Mardi Gras, masks allowed revelers to escape societal constraints, mingling with whatever classes they desired (and even hiding their identity should they engage in less than upstanding behavior). Today, they continue to add mystery and intrigue to Mardi Gras celebrations. Masks are also commonly seen at celebrations of Carnevale in Venice and Brazil.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!