Mardi Gras (French, “fat Tuesday”), pre-Lenten festival celebrated in Roman Catholic countries and communities. In a strict sense, Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, is celebrated by the French as the last
of the three days of Shrovetide and is a time of preparation immediately before Ash Wednesday and the
start of the fast of Lent. It is thus the last opportunity for merrymaking and indulgence in food and drink. In
practice, Mardi Gras is generally celebrated for a full week before Lent. It is marked by spectacular parades
featuring floats, pageants, elaborate costumes, masked balls, and dancing in the streets.
Mardi Gras originated as one of the series of carnival days held in all Roman Catholic countries between
Twelfth Night, or Epiphany, and Ash Wednesday; these carnivals had their origin in pre-Christian spring
fertility rites. The most famous modern Mardi Gras festivities are those held in New Orleans, Louisiana;
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Nice, France; and Cologne, Germany.
Lent, period of fasting and penitence traditionally observed by Christians in preparation for Easter.
The length of the Lenten fast, during which observants eat sparingly, was established in the 4th century as
40 days. In the Eastern churches, where both Saturdays and Sundays are regarded as festival days, the
period of Lent is the eight weeks before Easter; in the Western churches, where only Sunday is regarded as
a festival, the 40-day period begins on Ash Wednesday and extends, with the omission of Sundays, to the
day before Easter. The observance of fasting or other forms of self-denial during Lent varies within
Protestant and Anglican churches. These bodies emphasize penitence. The Roman Catholic church has in
recent years relaxed its laws on fasting. According to an apostolic constitution issued by Pope Paul VI in
February 1966, fasting and abstinence during Lent are obligatory only on Ash Wednesday and Good
Each year more than 24 million visitors produce more than $4.7 billion for the Louisiana
economy. The hub of this tourism industry is New Orleans. The quiet old-world charm of the French
Quarter is periodically disturbed by celebrations at the time of Mardi Gras, the Sugar Bowl football game,
and major events at the Superdome. The state is also noted for its Gulf and freshwater fishing and for its
excellent hunting opportunities, as well as Thoroughbred and quarter-horse racing. Louisiana maintains a
system of 26 parks and recreation areas.