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Brief History of Mardi Gras


Mardi Gras ~ literal translation ~ Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday


Sometime around the 2nd Century, Ancient Romans would observe what they called Lupercalia, a circus-type festival which was, in many respects, quite similar to present day Mardi Gras. This festival honored the Roman deity, Lupercus, a pastoral God associated with Faunus or the Satyr.  When Christianity arrived in Rome, the dignitaries of the early Church decided it would be more prudent to incorporate certain aspects of such rituals into the new faith rather than attempt to abolish them altogether. This granted a Christian interpretation to the ancient custom and the Carnival became a time of abandon and merriment which precded the Lenten period. 


Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday falls between February 3rd and March 9th, based on the Lunar calendar that the Catholic Church uses to determine the date of Easter, and defines the Lenten season of penitance which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. 


When we fast forward to more modern times there is controversy as to when the first actual "Mardi Gras" took place in Southern Louisiana. Some claim it was March 3, 1699, when French explorer, Sieur d'lberville, set up camp about 60 miles south of present day New Orleans and named the site Point du Mardi Gras in honor of the celebration being held on that day back in France. Others say it was in 1827 when a group of students, having just returned from a time schooling in Paris, donned costumes and masks, as they had seen in France, and paraded through the streets of New Orleans. The traditional and symbolic colors of Purple (Justice), Green (Faith), and Gold (Power) were chosen forthe Krewe of Rex in New Orleans by none other than the Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia, on a visit to the City in 1872.


Fast forward again and we are in Jefferson in the mid-19th century. Being the largest inland port in Texas, with direct ties to the New Orleans, a group of local citizens organized and hosted the first Queen Mab Ball. This tradition continued until the population of Jefferson began to dwindle after the Corps of Engineers were ultimately successful in blasting apart a huge log jam on the Red River (approx. 1873), which had allowed the paddlewheelers and steamboats to ply their way upriver and eventually reach Jefferson. 

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