Le Carnival: How the French Celebrate Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras (translated means Fat Tuesday) is a celebration of the last large feast eating des mets gras (fat-filled foods) before the religious fasting period of Lent. Lent is the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter where those participating give up something, often food, for religious purposes.   

In France, as in many other locations across the globe, Mardi Gras is celebrated by a large parade; with masquerades, delicious food, and dances in the streets. Although France didn’t create Mardi Gras, their lively parties were coined and practiced in many places like New Orleans, Beligum, and Spain.     

In the earlier days in France, mainly Paris, the high courts celebrated the occasion with lavish parties and feasts, along with dancing and festivals. While those in poverty still celebrated with dances and small festivals, they were made to look in longingly at the wondrous parties of the nobles. During that time, the peasants would hold a courir de Mardi Gras, when a group of peasants would walk estate to estate in search for extra food. As these traditions blossomed into actual parades, people began to wear masks to conceal their identity and as well as other elaborate costumes. These old customs soon became tradition and are still practiced today.    

Other such traditions are large parades like one in Nice. Nice has one of the largest carnivals in the world, and this year, Le Carnival Du Nice is holding a theme of  Roi des 5 Continents, the King of the Five Continents. They also hold other events like the Flower Parade and traditionally eat particular foods like les beignets, little doughnuts and King Cakes.        

 Each city has their own twist of variation on the holiday but the meaning remains the same. To celebrate the joys of food, love, fun, and life. “Laissez les bon temps rouler!” Let the good times roll!