“Mardi Gras,” is French for “Fat Tuesday.” Fat Tuesday is the last day before Lent. Lent is the season of fasting and prayer observed by most Christian denominations in the forty days leading up to Easter. A time for carefree celebration, Mardi Gras traditionally served to balance out the solemnity of the days that follow. To prepare for Lent, religious people emptied their pantries of indulgences like eggs, lard, and sugar. Using up the supplies as it was frowned upon by many Christian denominations during the 40-day Lenten fast. Therefore, a big part of Fat Tuesday is eating an abundance of delicious fried food—especially donuts, cakes, and pastries.
This day of indulgence is also called Shrove Tuesday. It is a name that comes from the practice of “shriving,” purifying oneself through confession—prior to Lent. For many Christians, Shrove Tuesday is a time to receive penance and absolution.
In modern times the day has become known for fun and revelry. Mardi Gras was celebrated in New Orleans soon after the city’s founding in 1718. The first recorded Mardi Gras street parade in New Orleans took place in 1837. New Orleans is the city best known for its extravagant celebrations with parades, dazzling floats, masked balls, cakes, and drinks.