Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday as it is called in many countries, is a Carnival that occurs before the beginning of Lent, and it is tradition to eat plenty of rich foods before commencing the fast leading up to Easter. The largest and most renown celebration of Mardi Gras occurs in New Orleans, attracting flocks of tourists annually.
Mardi Gras came to New Orleans in 1699, when the French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, upon realising it was the eve of the festive holiday, named the area him and his men were at ‘Pointe du Mardi Gras’. The very first Mardi Gras in America was celebrated in 1703 by the small settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile.
Every year, countless krewes put on parades or balls during the mardi gras season, building their own floats (decorated platforms) and giving out throws - small trinkets such as beads that are thrown to the spectators. Each krewe elects a leader, often a celebrity or influential citizen from New Orleans, whose identity is kept secret leading up to the parade. The Krewe of Bacchus, for example, invites a celebrity each year to take on the mantle of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. In 2012, Will Ferrell played the role.
Another important krewe is the Krewe of Rex, from which many of the carnival’s traditions, including its colours, stem from. The group dates back to 1872, when they were originally commissioned to put on a spectacle for the visiting of Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia. The Mardi Gras colours were chosen and ascribed meaning by their Rex, King of the Carnival, in 1892: purple stands for justice, green for faith and gold for power.