by Emeric Harney February 08, 2022 10 min read 4 Comments
One sure sign that spring will be arriving soon is Mardi Gras. All the color, excitement and joy of that event is like watching life exuberantly bloom right before your very eyes. Since we’re celebrating Mardi Gras with our current Martea Gras campaign, we thought it would be a good time to explore this storied holiday.
Mardi Gras Roots
Mardi Gras has European roots that date back thousands of years. Originally part of pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, it transitioned into a tradition that was part of the Christian faith. This is because religious leaders in Rome decided it was better to try to incorporate some of the pagan rituals that people loved into new, less raucous traditions than to abolish them altogether. You know, kind of a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” tactic.
What remained of the formerly pagan traditions that included excess and debauchery became part of the lead up to Lent, with Mardi Gras being the final day of excessive celebration. The tradition spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain, and England. We have the French to thank for the phrase “Mardi Gras” – “mardi” means “Tuesday,” and “gras” means “fat.” Celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, it was customary for people to binge on rich, fatty foods before taking up various types of fasting and giving up things like sweets, alcohol and meat. Even the word “carnival” is derived from the medieval Latin word “carnelevarium,” which means to take away or remove flesh or meat.
Mardi Gras Arrives in the U.S.
The Mardi Gras party got started on March 3, 1699, when French explorers landed near present-day New Orleans. They realized they had landed on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, and so they naturally got busy putting on the first U.S. Mardi Gras. They even named their landing spot Point du Mardi Gras.
Other than a hiatus when the Spanish took control of New Orleans and banned Mardi Gras festivities – what’s up with that? – New Orleans has been the Mardi Gras capital of the U.S. Beginning in 1827, a group of students got decked out in colorful costumes and danced through the New Orleans streets just as they’d seen revelers do in Paris. The first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place 10 years later and is, of course, very much alive and well today.
Mardi Gras Traditions
There are some things that are uniquely Mardi Gras. Here are six of the most famous.
Also, along with the throwing of Zulu coconuts, due to fear of lawsuits and accidental ingestion of tiny baby figurines, the babies are now often provided separately for the host to insert in the cake. First no coconut throwing, and now this.
Finally, what would Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday be without some decadent food and beverages? Not right, that’s what! Check out these mouthwatering recipes, and as they say, Laissez les bons temps rouler – let the good times roll!
There’s no better way to start your Fat Tuesday than with fresh-made beignets. They’re a New Orleans staple, and while the winners of our Martea Gras grand prize will receive a bag of beignet mix from the famous Café du Monde, you can make your own from scratch. If you prefer, make the dough the night before or, if you’re an earlier riser (so to speak!), you can make these yeast pastries first thing in the morning. Pair them with a classic morning tea like English Breakfast, go with a French-inspired cuppa Paris or up the yum factor with our Chocolate tea.
Serving: 12 beignets
We’ve taken a popular Mardi Gras drink, Bourbon Milk Punch, and changed it up a bit with the addition of our Black Cask Bourbon tea. Hold onto your beads and boas, this drink is creamy, rich, deceptively boozy and perfect for celebrating Fat Tuesday (or any Tuesday, perhaps!).
Instructions for Black Cask Bourbon-Infused Ice Cream:
Instructions for Assembling Your Black Cask Bourbon Cocktail:
A staple of New Orleans’ cuisine, this jambalaya recipe is a Creole version, which means it has tomatoes, versus a Cajun recipe which does not. Also, you can buy Creole seasoning, but making it yourself will be more flavorful and rewarding.
Serving: 4 servings
Creole Seasoning Ingredients:
Creole Seasoning Instructions:
Jambalaya is a wonderfully spicy dish that pairs well with a refreshing iced tea. Calm your taste buds with one of our Fresh Brewed Iced Teas – add sugar for a full Southern experience.
March 16, 2023
This blog was fun to read and very educational. I also enjoyed the drink and food recipes.
February 24, 2022
As a New Orleans area native, I loved seeing this blog! Your jambalaya recipe rivals my dad’s wonderful version. Thanks for helping me celebrate one of my favorite Louisiana holidays and bringing to mind a sweet memory of my father!
February 24, 2022
Merci, Beacoup , Lezez les bon temps roller!
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March 16, 2023
Really enjoyed this article and learning the history of Mardi Gras. Thanks for the great recipes too!💜💚💛