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The History of Mardi GrasIn French Mardi Gras means â€œfat Tuesday.â€ It is celebrated 41 days before Easter Sunday, which is determined by the Catholic Church from the lunar calendar. It can fall anywhere from February 3 to March 9. Mardi Gras began in Paris, France during the middle ages and was brought to New Orleans by the French Explorer Iberville in 1699. The first parade took place in 1837.
During the early 1800s the Mardi Gras crowds became very violent and it was on the verge of being banned when in 1857 a group of men formed a society called the Mystic Krewe of Comus. This was the first of the Krewes that now make up the Mardi Gras festivals.
The Krewe of Comus helped to organize and bring peace to the parades and balls and Mardi Gras was never outlawed. It was however cancelled in the early 1900s during World War 1 and the Great Depression. Since then Mardi Gras has grown in size and popularity and is now made up of dozens of Krewes and is recognized on an international level. Most of the Krewes of Mardi Gras have been around for years and developed from private social clubs that had restrictive memberships until the city of New Orleans introduced a parade organization anti-discrimination ordinance. These Krewes are normally made up of a King and Queen, Dukes, Knights and Captains.
Most of the Krewes will hold a ball and or a parade during Mardi Gras. The official Mardi Gras season begins on January 6th which is twelve days after Christmas. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men brought gifts to Jesus after he was born. The traditional baking of king cakes was also started to honor these three kings. King cakes are made up of wrapped baked coffee cake topped with icing and the three colors of mardi gras.
In the past a gold bean was inserted into the cake and whoever got the piece with the bean in it had to host the next king cake party or buy the next cake. Since then the bean has been replaced with a small plastic baby, but the same rules still apply.
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