Mardi Gras mär´dē grä [key], last day before the fasting season of Lent. It is the French name for Shrove Tuesday. Literally translated, the term means
fat Tuesdayand 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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Days, Months, Holidays, and Festivals