Mardi Gras is a mid-winter revelry that has ancient origins. Here are some ways to make meaning of the madness.
Step 1: Visit Rome Take a trip to Rome. The ancient Romans celebrated a raucous festival known as Lupercalia each year in mid-February. The festival was marked by cakes and the sacrifices of goats and a dog.
Step 2: Visit a medieval cathedral Visit a medieval cathedral while you are in Italy. Just as the early Church found new interpretations for Pagan rituals honoring the winter solstice and spring equinox, it transformed the Lupercalia into Mardi Gras.
TIP: Mardi Gras is tied to Easter, which falls on the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox.
Step 3: Enjoy a feast Enjoy a feast the day before Lent. In medieval Europe, Mardi Gras was a day of feasting. It was marked by the slaughter of a bull or ox, and became known as Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French.
Step 4: Visit New Orleans Hop a flight to New Orleans. French settlers brought Mardi Gras to Louisiana in the late 17th century, and the holiday was deeply rooted in New Orleans culture by the 1830s. A secret society called the Mistick Krewe of Comus staged the first large-scale Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans in 1857.
Step 5: Have some cake Enjoy a Mardi Gras King cake. These cakes are decorated in traditional Mardi Gras colors -- purple, green, and gold. Purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power. Now you can have your cake and make sense out of one of the best parties in the U.S.
FACT: Kern Studios was established in 1947 to create floats for Mardi Gras, and is now one of the largest float builders in the world.