Mardi Gras is one of the best known celebrations around the world. Beginning on or after the Epiphany, on January 6, the celebration of the pre-Lenten Carnival season extends to Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday (the English translation of its French name), which is the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of the 40 days of Lent. The festival season varies, as some cities or countries celebrate only the official day of Mardi Gras, while others have weeks of parties and lively events leading up to Ash Wednesday.
Mardi Gras history has its roots dating to Medieval Europe, with some specific historical practices dating to Roman and Pagan times and incorporating ancient traditions into the modern-day festivities. Parades, elaborate costumes and masks, satirical humor, and symbolic rituals are all part of the event, and many cities with unique celebrations, such as Venice, New Orleans, and Montreal, have incorporated these past traditions into their present celebrations.
Also called Carnival, Mardi Gras is celebrated in many historically Christian countries around the world. Although the festivities take place for various lengths of time, preparations to create the best Mardi Gras parties typically begin in January, whether the event lasts for one or three weeks, or even long. For instance, the Limoux Carnival in France, located in the town of the same name in the Languedoc region, is the longest running festival, with celebrations lasting from January through March.
In the US, choosing where to celebrate Mardi Gras 2016 is no easy task, as many states have great celebrations to mark the occasion, including Florida, California, Missouri, New York, Colorado, and, of course, Louisiana. The city where US Mardi Gras celebrations first began is Mobile, Alabama. Mobile’s first Mardi Gras was in 1703, and the tradition has continued every year. If you’re interested in Mardi Gras history as part of your trip, Mobile is a great place to go.
One of the best Mardi Gras parties is the New Orleans Mardi Gras. Ongoing since the 1730s, New Orleans is the most well known for celebrating Fat Tuesday. The French Quarter sizzles with music and parades, and the streets teem with spectators dressed in flamboyant costumes and masks. A highlight of the New Orleans Mardi Gras is the tradition of the tossing of the beads during the parade from Krewe members riding along on floats.
Although it’s often treated as an adults-only event, kids can get into the celebrations as well, and for families, the best Mardi Gras party takes place at Universal Studios in Orlando where visitors have access to all the park attractions along with the traditional Mardi Gras festivities.
If you’re in Europe, the Carnival in Venice is one of the best-known Mardi Gras events, starting about two weeks before Ash Wednesday. The Carnevale di Venezia is known for its stunning costumes and masks, many of which are made with leather or glass, embellished with gold leaf, and then hand-painted. If you’re interested in taking in different European Mardi Gras celebrations, you can also visit the city of Cadiz in Spain, the Fastnacht celebrations in Germany, or the Maslenitsa in Russia.
Choosing where to celebrate Mardi Gras 2016 in South America is typically quite simple. Brazil has one of the best Mardi Gras parties in the world, and the Carnival in the city of Rio de Janeiro is particularly well-known for its elaborate parades, brilliantly colored costumes and masks, fireworks, samba music, and singing and dancing in the streets. If you’re looking for one of the most over-the-top and exciting carnivals, Brazil is the place to be.