By Tori Dahlhoff

Literally translated, “Mardi Gras” means “Fat Tuesday” in French. The tradition of Mardi Gras spans back thousands of years and was originally performed as a pagan festival. According to the article Mardi Gras 2020 In an effort to erase paganism and perhaps convert pagan worshipers, the Catholic Church began to incorporate the festival into their own religion. So why do we celebrate a day known as Fat Tuesday? In the Catholic religion there is a season of fasting known as Lent in which participants refrain from consuming certain forbidden foods. Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday; therefore, on the Tuesday before, participants would binge on fatty foods that would be prohibited during Lent, hence Fat Tuesday was born.

 The Mardi Gras season began on January 6, 2022 this year, and will conclude on March 1, 2022.

Two Mardi Gras parade goers pause for a photo during a Leesville parade. 
Photo courtesy of Shana Ashworth

The festivities involved in celebrating Mardi Gras are vast and may not be well known to those who are not native to Louisiana. Some of these distinguished traditions include parades, balls, king cake, and eccentric costumes. 

The parades boast floats created by specific krewe’s (which are groups of people who work year around to plan out the parades and other traditions), music, marching bands, and food. One of the staples of a Mardi Gras parade is the tossing of beads to onlookers, and the coined phrase “Throw me something mister!” from parade-goers. The plastic beads will decorate trees, streets, rear-view mirrors and necks for weeks to follow. Many of these parades are chock-full of characters dressed up in eccentric costumes which are usually color themed in greens, purples, and gold. 

While New Orleans and Bourbon Street may be the first that come to mind when you think of Mardi Gras celebrations in The Boot, the entire state of Louisiana participates in the celebration. There are local parades and balls in Deridder, Leesville, Alexandria, and Natchitoches. Deridder hosted a parade on January 26 at 5 p.m. The Leesville Mardi Gras parade will be on February 26 at 2 p.m. on Third Street. There will be a children’s Mardi Gras parade at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 26 in downtown Alexandria. Natchitoches will also have a parade known as the “Krewe of Dionysos” on February 26 at 6 p.m.  

Mardi Gras balls are extravagant events that allow participants to embellish themselves in ball gowns, suits, and sometimes even masquerade-like masks. These balls typically have a court, and therefore have a king and a queen announced. Eat, drink, and dance the night away at a ball fit for kings and queens. Locally, the Knights of Columbus host a ball in Leesville. This year’s event is Feb. 19. For more information, click here

Natchitoches also hosts a ball, and if you are willing to travel farther away New Orleans hosts many eccentric and extravagant balls as well. Here is a link to Mardi Gras activities around the state. 

Last but not least, there is the tradition of eating a specific cake during the Mardi Gras season known as a “king cake.” Traditionally the cake is an oval pastry type with melted icing and colorful sprinkles on top with a slight twist found inside of it: a tiny plastic baby. The tradition goes that whoever finds the baby in their piece of cake must provide the cake the next year. 

King Cake

There are so many varieties of king cake out there that even the pickiest of eaters can find one they will enjoy. The typical king cake is a pastry cake that somewhat resembles a large cinnamon roll with icing on top. From there you can add almost anything you want to them. Many are stuffed with raspberry, cream cheese, strawberry, or blueberry filling. You can venture out from the sweet cake and try crawfish stuffed cake, or boudin stuffed cake as well. Contact Southern Sweets and Treats to order a local king cake. Want to dabble in what the entire state has to offer? Here are some of the best king cakes that can be delivered!

Join in the festivities and traditions that Louisiana has to offer by participating in the eccentric celebration known as Mardi Gras. Remember to laissez le bon temps rouler, or let the good times roll!

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