For most people Mardi Gras conjures some very vivid images: the rowdy New Orleans alcohol induced revels, extravagant masked balls and tri-colored king cakes. However, these traditions have a much longer history than most realize.
A prelude to the Catholic season of Lent, which is 40 days of fasting from meat, Fat Tuesday “is the last big party of sorts before you start doing a religious holiday,” says pre-pharmacy sophomore Ryan Byrd from Madisonville.
This holiday has its roots in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, during which someone would sacrifice a goat for purification and fertility to the cheers and jeers of a crowd.
The grand parades of today, complete with tinsel bedecked floats and costumed krewes, further evolved from French costume balls and, later, the on-foot parades of the nineteenth century.
The Mardi Gras staple, king cakes, were once simple rings of dough meant to symbolize the three kings that visited Jesus, hence the baby figurine hidden inside.