It’s Mardi Gras time once again, and festivities are gearing up around the world. Mardi Gras is about different cultures coming together to celebrate and unite under a common theme. But did you know the first Mardi Gras in North America occurred under French rule?
In 1704, King Louis XIV ordered two brothers to sail from France to defend their territories – areas that are now Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Upon arriving, the brothers found the mouth of a body of water, now known as the Mississippi River, and sailed upstream a few miles until they located the perfect place to build a colony. They designated the area ‘Point du Mardi Gras’ and enjoyed a celebration.
From these humble beginnings a proud culture of French ancestors known as the Creole population began and prospered. Today, thousands of people become ‘honourary Creoles’ during annual Mardi Gras celebrations throughout the US.
Mardi Gras, which in French translates to Fat Tuesday, is officially the day before Ash Wednesday. The day is also commonly referred to as Shrove Tuesday and can occur anytime between February 3rd and March 9th, depending on when Easter is held that particular year. As celebrations across the world grow larger with each passing year, Mardi Gras has evolved from one day into a week of festivities.
Zydeco music is one of the most unique and popular forms of American Roots Music, and a southern music tradition revered worldwide. It is the indigenous music of the multi-racial, multi-cultural French-speaking Creoles of south west Louisiana. The core instrumentation is the accordion and the frottoir, or rub board. The word Zydeco comes from the African word ‘zaico laga laga’ meaning ‘to dance’. While the music has evolved throughout the years into a fusion of many different styles and musical influences, many Zydeco songs today are still sung in French.
While Mardi Gras means many things to many people, one item found at almost every Mardi Gras celebration is beads. Even though the first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans occurred in the 1830s, the bead tradition wasn’t born until the 1920’s when inexpensive handmade glass necklaces were thrown out to the crowd.
While New Orleans has the most well-known Mardi Gras, there are other places in the world who take their celebrations just as seriously. The Rio de Janeiro Carnival is held in Brazil each year, for two weeks prior to the fasting period in the Christian calendar known as Lent. While Brazil’s carnival resembles and incorporates many of the similar aspects that define America’s Mardi Gras – great music, delicious foods and parades – it is distinctively Brazilian due to the amount of Samba dancing that occurs.
Mardi Gras even takes place in Canada. Winnipeggers can come in from the cold and warm up to the sights, sounds and sizzle of the 5th Winnipeg Mardi Gras on February 12 and 13 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Do something different for your valentine this year, and take them out to Winnipeg Mardi Gras! Invite your single friends, too, as the chances of finding love on Bourbon Street are pretty good. Don't forget your dancing shoes!