Indianapolis News and HeadlinesNational NewsScripps News

Actions

What is Fat Tuesday? The origins might surprise you

The Mardi Gras season always begins on Jan. 6, the 12th day after Christmas. However, the final weeks before Fat Tuesday are the most opulent.
What is Fat Tuesday? The origins might surprise you
Posted at 11:34 AM, Feb 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-13 11:34:11-05

Enjoy your last bites of king cake as the colorful carnival season has entered its final day. 

Fat Tuesday, always celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday, is the Mardi Gras finale. The name itself is French for Fat Tuesday — “mardi” is the word for Tuesday and “gras” is the word for fat. 

Fat Tuesday, also called Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday, marks the last day of feasts and over-the-top celebrations before the fasting that is associated with Lent since the Mardi Gras holiday has Christian and Roman Catholic origins. Look at it as the storm before the calm, if you will. 

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the various names for Fat Tuesday also come from the tradition of using up the eggs, milk and fat in your pantry because they were traditionally forbidden during the Lenten fast. Hence why fried food (like beignets and doughnuts) is abundant at these events. 

The Mardi Gras season always begins on Jan. 6, the 12th day after Christmas. However, the final weeks before Fat Tuesday are the most opulent, with sprawling parades, parties and masquerade balls. 

While New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are synonymous with Mardi Gras in the U.S., the carnival season is celebrated in different ways around the world. 

SEE MORE: Bakers in New Orleans preparing to roll in the dough for Mardi Gras

Countries throughout Europe and Latin America and even the Pennsylvania Dutch have traditions for celebrating the day before Ash Wednesday and the prelude to Lent. Each country and region just has a different take on traditions surrounding it. 

But in the U.S., Mardi Gras is most often accompanied by beads, booze, masks and king cake. Bead-throwing is thought to emulate a king throwing gems to his loyal subjects as he passes by on his carriage. Masks likely began as a way for people to mingle without class constraints that were a larger part of society decades ago. 

King cake, a cross between a French pastry and a coffee cake, topped with icing and sugar in the Mardi Gras colors, is served only during the Mardi Gras season. 

A small baby figurine (representing Jesus) is hidden in the king cake, and tradition says whoever gets the piece of the cake containing the baby is supposed to provide the king cake for the next gathering. It can also be seen as good luck. 

The Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans are organized by prestigious and secretive social clubs called Krewes. Each Krewe traditionally has its own royal court and hosts parties and masquerade balls during carnival season, leading up to the parade. 

According to the official Mardi Gras website, the Krewe of Rex in 1872 is responsible for the colors of purple, green and gold seen during the season today. Purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold represents power.

As for the booze, well that’s just American. 


Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com