What Is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras is a Christian holiday and popular cultural phenomenon that dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Also known as Carnival or Carnaval, it’s celebrated in many countries around the world—mainly those with large Roman Catholic populations—on the day before the religious season of Lent begins. Brazil, Venice, New Orleans, USA and Eureka Springs, USA play host to some of the holiday’s most famous public festivities, drawing thousands of tourists and revelers every year.
Mardi Gras dates back the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia.
When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome, Italy to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England.
What Does Mardi Gras Mean?
Mardi is the French word for Tuesday, and gras means “fat.” In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” This year, 2020, Fat Tuesday is on February 25th.
Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the rich, fatty foods—meat, eggs, milk, lard, cheese—that remained in their homes, in anticipation of several weeks of eating only fish and different types of fasting.
The word carnival, another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, also derives from this feasting tradition: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat, from the Latin carnem for meat.
New Orleans Mardi Gras
The first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699, when French explorers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville landed near present-day New Orleans, Louisiana. They held a small celebration and dubbed their landing spot Point du Mardi Gras.
In the decades that followed, New Orleans and other French settlements began marking the holiday with street parties, masked balls and lavish dinners. When the Spanish took control of New Orleans, however, they abolished these rowdy rituals, and the bans remained in force until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.
On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students donned colorful costumes and danced through the streets of New Orleans, emulating the revelry they’d observed while visiting Paris. Ten years later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place, a tradition that continues to this day.
In 1857, a secret society of New Orleans businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized a torch-lit Mardi Gras procession with marching bands and rolling floats, setting the tone for future public celebrations in the city.
Since then, krewes have remained a fixture of the Carnival scene throughout Louisiana. Other lasting customs include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake.
Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday. However, elaborate carnival festivities draw crowds in other parts of the United States during the Mardi Gras season as well, including Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Galveston, Texas; and parts of Alabama and Mississippi. Each region has its own events and traditions.
Mardi Gras Around the World
Across the globe, pre-Lenten festivals continue to take place in many countries with significant Roman Catholic populations.
Brazil’s week-long Carnival festivities feature a vibrant amalgam of European, African and native traditions. In Canada, Quebec City hosts the giant Quebec Winter Carnival. In Italy, tourists flock to Venice’s Carnevale, which dates back to the 13th century and is famous for its masquerade balls.
Known as Karneval, Fastnacht or Fasching, the German celebration includes parades, costume balls and a tradition that empowers women to cut off men’s ties. For Denmark’s Fastevlan, children dress up and gather candy in a similar manner to Halloween—although the parallel ends when they ritually flog their parents on Easter Sunday morning.
Here, In Eureka Springs, we basically drink, eat, socialize, parade & party and, of course, have a whole lot of fun! The first Mardi Gras occurrence in Eureka Springs was in 1907 with a parade and two balls. Eureka Gras was founded in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina transplants that moved from New Orleans to Eureka Springs and has grown into what is now known as Eureka Gras!
On Friday, February 14, 2020, at 5:30pm, The Krewe of Krazo will host The Coronation Ball. The Coronation Ball is a cornerstone event during Eureka Springs Mardi Gras! The Ball includes a formal Royal Procession, and a traditional ceremony highlighting the transition of the King and Queen. All followed by a congratulatory celebration over dinner, which includes live music and dancing.
Like many Krewes, The Krewe of Krazo annually pays tribute to the incoming King, Queen, and Royal Court with this traditional Coronation Ball. You will witness the formal exchange of Royalty and the promenade of King and Queen XV and the 2020 Royal Court. It’s an exciting night for Royalty as well as a great celebration of tradition. This is a greatly respected ceremony, handed down over many years.
This event is open to the public, with limited seating available. Tickets are $45.
The Coronation Ball will follow the theme, Fantasy and Fairytales, and dinner will be presented as a formal ‘renaissance’ experience. Attire will be black tie, or costume formal, or masquerade formal, or renaissance formal. Regardless, all costume elements must be suitable for the presence of Royalty.