Mardi Gras translates into "Fat Tuesday" - the last big party blow out before Ash Wednesday at midnight and the start of Lent. Although it's not celebrated universally, many cities with a French heritage celebrate with parades and other French Catholic traditions. Most people believe Mardi Gras, as a Carnival festival, originated in the United States. They would be wrong.
Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville led an expedition for Louis XIV to defend France's claim on Louisiane (Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana). After arriving near the Mississippi River in 1699, Bienville established Mobile, Alabama in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana. In 1703, settlers there organised the first Mardi Gras celebration. New Orleans just kind of took the ball and ran with it, becoming the capital of Louisiana in 1718.
My longtime friend Virginia, like me, grew up on the traditions of New Orleans and Mardi Gras. She's there today and we talked with her between parades ... and Pat O'Brien's Hurricanes. Click here to listen.
If you ever plan a trip to New Orleans and need some recommendations, let me know!