If you ask the average person walking down the street what their favorite holiday is, they will most likely tell you one of national importance, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, some may even say the Fourth of July. Holidays such as these are deemed important enough to cancel work and school for a good percentage of the population. Some people, however, take pride in answering with a much more peculiar holiday, one that isn’t celebrated nationally, such as Leif Erikson Day (Oct. 9) or Earth Day (Apr. 22). These days can be just as important to people as the more commonly known days. To some, Fat Tuesday is the event of the year.
Mardi Gras (Literally “Fat Tuesday” in French) is the celebration of the last day before Lent, which is a period when a good portion of Christians give up a certain thing they enjoy (such as watching too much TV or buying lottery tickets) and can only have certain foods on certain days. Fat Tuesday refers to the fatty foods that participants in the celebration eat for the last time for over a month. After that, they can only have fattier foods on certain days of the week. So, yes, Mardi Gras is the celebration of the upcoming celebration of Lent that precedes the celebration of ending the celebration of Lent. Got it? Good.
Mardi Gras is most commonly celebrated in French-influenced areas of the world, such as France, Belgium, Senegal, and the American South, especially in New Orleans, Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama— both of which were former French territories during the colonial era. Celebrations vary around the world, but in almost every case, participants take to the streets in flamboyant attire, such as costumes made entirely of flowers or old musketeer uniforms. In a way, the celebration has become a bigger part of the day than the food being eaten or the religious aspect of the day, much like Christmas.
All in all, the day has a great sense of togetherness to it, bringing people from all backgrounds into the streets together, marching in jester costumes with every color under the sun stained on. Even in 2006, right after Hurricane Katrina devastated nearly the entire Gulf Coast, people still came out to celebrate, some homeless, some emotionally distraught. The day brings people together, and unlike other holidays, has a loud and abrupt way of showing itself.