FROM THE DESK OF Matthew Bangerter THE BANGERTER CASE FILES KREWES, KING CAKE, AND CULTURE T he F ascinating H istory of M ardi G ras FEBRUARY 2019
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Unlike most holidays, Mardi Gras is associated with a place as much as it is a time. When people think of Mardi Gras, they automatically think of New Orleans. The celebration, held on a Tuesday in either February or March, is a point of pride for NOLA residents but is often misunderstood by the general public. Here’s what you need to know about America’s most regional holiday.
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Mardi Gras doesn’t follow the traditional holiday calendar patterns we’re familiar with. It doesn’t fall on a static date, like Christmas, or a specific day within a month, like Memorial Day. Instead, it follows the pattern of Easter, which is based on a more complicated formula. Easter takes place on the Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox (the start of spring). An ecclesiastical full moon, as opposed to a regular full moon, is determined by Catholic church tables, not by lunar patterns. While that part is pretty complex, determining the date of Mardi Gras is much easier: It’s 47 days before Easter. As such, it can fall on any Tuesday between Feb. 3 and March 9, hence the name Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.”
... And other frequently asked questions.
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While New Orleans is undoubtedly the place everyone associates with Mardi Gras, it is not where the holiday originated in America. That honor belongs to Mobile, Alabama, which organized the first widespread Mardi Gras celebrations in 1703. As more people moved to New Orleans, which became the capital of Louisiana in 1723, the holiday took root there. At first, the people who participated in the festivities were of mostly French or Catholic heritage.
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