THE OFFICIAL MARDI GRAS QUIZ – Are you a Mardi Gras Expert?
Below are 10 questions to test your Mardi Gras Knowledge. How much do YOU know about Mardi Gras and Carnival? Although these celebrations are held throughout the world, the questions below primarily focus on New Orleans.
WHAT IS MARDI GRAS?
Mardi Gras is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and means “Fat Tuesday” in French. With Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of Lent, a 40 day period of fasting before Easter, Mardi Gras is the “last hurrah” of sorts, with participants indulging in their favorite fatty foods, drink and decadent behavior before giving them up for Lent.
IS MARDI GRAS THE SAME AS CARNIVAL?
No, they aren’t the same. Countries around the world celebrate Mardi Gras as the last day of the Carnival season. Carnival starts on January 6, the day after the Christian religious day of Epiphany (or Twelfth Night). Epiphany/Twelfth Night is said to be the date the Wise Men found the baby Jesus. Carnival ends with Mardi Gras.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER NAMES FOR MARDI GRAS?
In traditional religious communities, Mardi Gras Tuesday is also known as Shrove Tuesday. It’s a day in many cultures where the people clean out (and eat) all the rich fattening foods in their house in preparation for the solumn period of Lent. In many countries, people celebrate Mardi Gras by eating pancakes and particpating in pancake-themed activities, calling it Pancake Tuesday. Russians celebrate the Butter Festival that day, often celebrating with blinis and rich buttery foods.
WHAT’S KING’S CAKE?
King’s cake (or three kings cake), is eaten throughout the world during carnival season. This dense golden cake is made with a tiny baby Jesus figurine tucked inside. Whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby Jesus is said to have good luck all year. And, that person is supposed to bring cake to the gathering the following year. Did you know that over 500,000 Kings Cakes are sold each year in New Orleans, alone?
WHAT ARE THE OFFICIAL MARDI GRAS COLORS?
The official colors of Mardi Gras are Purple, Gold and Green. Purple signifies justice, gold means power, and green stands for faith. The Kings Cakes of New Orleans often have frosting in purple, gold and green.
HOW LONG HAVE PARADES BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH THE MARDI GRAS CELEBRATIONS?
New Orleans has been celebrating Fat Tuesday with parades since 1837. That’s since long before the Civil War! The first floats appeared in the parade in 1857. The parades have marching bands, dancing groups and a variety of participants in addition to the floats.
WHY ARE BEADS THROWN DURING MARDI GRAS?
There doesn’t seem to be any significance as to why beads are thrown in Mardi Gras parades. Today, it’s just part of the tradition. Beads have been a part of the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations for over 100 years and were originally made of glass. It’s believed that a person dressed as Santa Claus was the first person in a New Orleans parade to use beads with their costume. Today, there are about a dozen bead supply houses in New Orleans. The largest one estimates that they supply over a billion strands of beads during a season. People on the floats throw millions of beads today as well as stuffed animals, toys, candy, Frisbees and other souvenirs.
WHAT ARE ‘KREWES’?
Krewes are organizations that puts on a parade and/or a ball for Mardi Gras/Carnival. These organizations charge dues ranging from $20 to thousands of dollars annually. Some of the krewes have long waiting lists for potential members while others will let pretty much anyone join. The most famous of the Krewes is “Rex”, which is responsible for selecting the person who will be king of Mardi Gras. Most of the krewes also hold a big dinner dance. You can see the costumes and a variety of information about Mardi Gras at the Louisiana State Museum on Jackson Square in New Orleans.
WHY ARE MASKS SO COMMON DURING MARDI GRAS?
Have you ever noticed that masks are another Mardi Gras tradition? The original purpose of having masks at Carnival events was to remove social taboos of what types of people could associate together. The tradition has continued. In fact, did you know that wearing masks is required by law for float riders?
ARE THERE OTHER MARDI GRAS PARADES IN NEW ORLEANS BESIDES THE BIG ONES?
Many people are enjoying the specialty parades throughout New Orleans. Barkus is a popular procession with a variety of dressed pets. And, Chewbacchus is becoming increasingly popular. It’s a Star Wars-themed walking parade in the French Quarter. Check the calendar for dates for these specialty parades.
So, how did you do? Are you a Mardi Gras expert?
9-10 correct – Congratulations! You’re an Expert and ready to be the Mardi Gras King or Queen!
7-8 correct – Well done! You’re a Loyal Subject of the Mardi Gras period!
Less than 7 correct – You now know more than you did before and are ready for your trip to the big event.
When you’re in New Orleans, a visit to Mardi Gras World is a fun way to see how the big floats are put together and to try on some of the parade costumes. Mardi Gras World
The Louisiana State Museum on Jackson Square in New Orleans has a fantastic Mardi Gras exhibit on the second floor. There are parade costumes, ball gowns, old photos and lots of great information about the history of Mardi Gras. Louisiana State Museum at Jackson Square