Mardi Gras (märˈdē grä) [key], last day before the fasting season of Lent. It is the French name for Shrove Tuesday. Literally translated, the term means "fat Tuesday" and was so called because it represented the last opportunity for merrymaking and excessive indulgence in food and drink before the solemn season of fasting. In the cities of some Roman Catholic countries the custom of holding carnivals for Mardi Gras has continued since the Middle Ages. The carnivals, with spectacular parades, masked balls, mock ceremonials, and street dancing, usually last for a week or more before Mardi Gras itself. Some of the most celebrated are held in New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, Nice, and Cologne. For a full discussion of this subject, see carnival.