by PJ Heath
Beginning on Twelfth Night, January 6, one of the most extravagant seasons begins; king cake, music, bead-tossing, floats and parades kick off and only increase as the world celebrates getting closer to Mardi Gras.
There are a variety of things to celebrate during Carnival season, where locals celebrate, and visitors are more than welcome to join in on the fun.
On the weekends leading up to Fat Tuesday, parades roll through the crowded streets of lower Alabama and New Orleans. Spectators look on at the elaborate, larger-than-life floats with a satirical nature apparent in their designs.
Ellie Flowers, an undecided freshman from Fairhope, Alabama, has been going to Mardi Gras parades since she was born.
“I just love the atmosphere of Mardi Gras, because it truly is a one-of-a-kind experience,” Flowers said. “To me, Mardi Gras symbolizes unity because it brings everyone together to celebrate a special time.”
Whether it is catching Moon Pies, wearing a million beads, scrambling for doubloons or just trying to navigate the spirited crowds, there is always something to do during every week of the Mardi Gras season.
Anna Perri Chumley, a sophomore general buisness major from Montgomery, Alabama, started celebrating Mardi Gras once she got to college.
“My parents went every year as I was growing up, and I finally decided during college that I’d give it a try with my friends,” Chumley said. “In the downtown Mobile area, it’s like a tidal wave of purple, green and gold with excitement all around; I’ve grown to enjoy and appreciate the Mardi Gras festivities.”
Traditionally, Mardi Gras is celebrated on Fat Tuesday, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. In many areas, such as Mobile and New Orleans, Mardi Gras has evolved into a far longer festival.
“Mardi” is the French word for Tuesday, and “gras” means “fat,” therefore Mardi Gras is often referred to as Fat Tuesday.
AnnaBelle Marshall, an undecided sophomore from Fort Walton, Florida, is no stranger to the festivities of Mardi Gras.
“Growing up, I always enjoyed traveling over to Mobile to join family and friends to celebrate the holiday, and the passion for Mardi Gras can be seen on every street – literally,” Marshall said. “I have become a king cake enthusiast because I find the hidden baby Jesus in the cake nearly every time, so I guess I’m pretty lucky.”
According to the website History.com, Mardi Gras is a Christian holiday and popular cultural phenomenon that dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Brazil, Venice and New Orleans are home to some of the holiday’s most famous public festivities, annually attracting thousands of tourists and merrymakers. While many people think of New Orleans as the home of Mardi Gras, Mobile, Alabama, is actually credited as hosting the first Mardi Gras celebration.
Also known as Carnival, the holiday is celebrated in many countries around the world, especially those with large Roman Catholic populations, on the day before the religious season of Lent begins.