11 Things You Didn’t Know About Mardi Gras

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Mardi Gras Fun Facts

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Learn the fascinating history behind this major celebration.

In the middle of a long, cold winter, you need to have a reason to let a little loose. Months after Christmas and New Year's, the next cause for celebration is the highly anticipated holiday of Mardi Gras. This colorful and boisterous holiday marks the beginning of a new season, a turning over a new leaf of sorts, and is an overall joyous and uplifting celebration that many New Orleans natives and travelers look forward to.

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But before the beads and the masquerade masks, the origins of Mardi Gras pre-dates Christianity. Though now widely accepted as a Christian holiday that signifies the last hurrah before Lent, the day before Ash Wednesday originated as a pagan celebration of springtime and fertility with the Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When Christianity arrived in ancient Rome, leaders decided to incorporate the holiday as a celebration known as “Carnival.” Derived from the word carnelevarium, which means to take away or remove meat, Carnival, on the other hand, was designed as a day of excess meat eating.

Since then, this celebration of excess has morphed into a landmark event in New Orleans that involves a ton of music, booze, and food. And while you probably know about traditions like King Cake, do you know exactly why they hide a plastic baby in it? Do you know why the official colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold or why many wear masks? To help you party with a purpose, we rounded up some interesting facts about this rambunctious holiday that you might not have ever known.

This article was originally published by Lauren Gordon on Feb. 28, 2014.

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