When people hear Mardi Gras, they usually think first of New Orleans – and for good reason. The city is the birthplace of the celebration here in America. Although Louisiana is the only state that has officially declared the day a holiday, there are parties and parades across the country, including here in the Boston and Cambridge area! If you are planning your own Mardi Gras party, or want to dress up your office for a little fun – get some beads, a colorful King Cake and a festive bouquet of gold, purple, and green flowers from Central Square Florist. It’s time for Mardi Gras!
The raucous and sometimes bawdy celebration has an odd origination and connection to Ash Wednesday and the Christian observance of Lent, going back nearly 2,000 years.
It all started when the growing wave of Christianity in Rome came face to face with the pagan festivals of spring and fertility. The emperor, wanting all of Rome to convert to Christianity, found a way to assimilate the non-faithful into the fold by merging the two traditions. He arranged for the pagan festivals to culminate on the day before Ash Wednesday, which kicked off a 40-day season of fasting and repentance. Revelers were encouraged to eat all of the food in the house the day before the fast began – thus earning the day the name of Fat Tuesday. When the tradition moved to France, its name was translated to Mardi Gras.
On March 3, 1699, when the French explorer Bienville disembarked on the land that would one day be Louisiana, he and his crew realized it was Mardi Gras. They arranged an impromptu feast and named the land “Pointe du Mardi Gras”. For years, and across several French settlements (including the fledgling New Orleans) the festivities grew, taking on the form of masquerade balls and opulent dinners. Louisiana became a US state in 1812, and in the years following, Mardi Gras really took off. Men dressed in costumes, donned masks, and danced through the streets. Secret societies and “krewes” became tradition, and these krewes were responsible for the lavish floats, torch-lit processions, marching bands and establishment of the green, gold and purple color scheme – all of which continue today. Over the years, the custom of throwing beads and trinkets and eating colorful King cake were established.
Mardi Gras is celebrated around the world, and right here in Cambridge. So find a mask and join the fun – and don’t forget the flowers and gourmet treats! The floral designers at Central Square Florist will bring the revelry to your front door – just give us a call!