7 Fun Facts About Mardi Gras (Plus a Sweet Surprise)

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1. New Orleans didn’t invent Mardi Gras

New Orleans can thank their celebration of Mardi Gras to the Europeans who brought their religious practices with them to the colonies. This specific holiday was celebrated with as much vigor as it would have been in Europe; it became common to have masked balls and a very public celebration. Regardless of religious affiliation, every member would join in on this Catholic celebration.

2. Yes, Mardi Gras comes from non-Christian roots

In some cultures, the celebration of Mardi Gras marks the last day of Ordinary Time before the start of Lent. This celebration has a link to the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, the Roman god of fertility. When Christianity began to take root in ancient Roman culture, the celebration of Mardi Gras as we know it blended with the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia as means of evangelization and to transition the people away from paganism. 

3. So . . . Mardi Gras is an official state holiday in Louisiana

Not much to say other than we’re not shocked.

4. It has a very simple and timely meaning

The term “Mardi Gras”, French for “Fat Tuesday”, was coined because the French people would feast upon the foods that would be given up for Lent in an effort to clear their pantry. All the eggs, cheese, and milk had to go! Hence the name.

5. “Carnival”

Almost exclusively, we hear of Mardi Gras as a “Carnival” in reference to the celebrations in New Orleans. This originated from “carnevale” – “carne vale” — “Farewell meat” as a nod to the fasting and abstinence from meat which occurs during Lent. 

6. Not strictly immoral

The original intent of Mardi Gras was, and still is, to indulge —within reason, according to the moral teaching of the Church—before the penitential season of Lent. 

7. Delicious pastries as tradition

Mardi Gras Beignets

As we know, Lent is a time of fasting and abstinence, but originally it was not just from meat, but also from eggs, milk, cream, and everything made from those ingredients (cheese, butter, etc.). So, it became a common practice for housewives to fry up something delicious in the remaining lard before the fast began. In honor of this tradition, I leave you with a beignet recipe that can be enjoyed amongst friends.

Easy Beignet Recipe (adapted from Delish)

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. kosher salt

2 large eggs, separated

3/4 c. granulated sugar

1 tbsp. melted butter

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Vegetable oil, for frying

Powdered sugar, for dusting

DIRECTIONS

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, ¼ cup water, melted butter, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Fold into dry ingredients until just combined.

2.  In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then fold into batter.

3.  In a large pot, heat oil to 375º. Drop small spoonfuls of batter into hot oil and fry until golden, about 5 minutes. (You want to keep the oil at 375º to make sure they cook all the way through.) Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.

4. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.  Serve with some chocolate sauce, whip cream, and strawberries. 

Featured image: Pixabay. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

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