Mardi Gras

There are many exciting festivals that take place in February, but one of the lesser known ones in Japan is probably Mardi Gras.  When I think of colorful costumes, an exciting parade, and lots of partying, Mardi Gras immediately comes to mind.

Although people throughout the world celebrate Mardi Gras, it is perhaps best known in the state of Louisiana, in the U.S., where it is an official holiday.  People dress up in bright, elaborate costumes on the day of Mardi Gras, which falls on February 28th this year, and march in the parade that draws visitors from all over the world.  There are also festive floats that performers dance on during the parade, and most onlookers wear masks at the very least to join in on the fun.  As the floats travel up and down the streets, the performers on them throw small trinkets or toys at the observers.  When my grandparents went to Mardi Gras many, many years ago, they brought back some of those plastic party favors as souvenirs.  They were definitely more amusing for an eight-year-old child than a grownup whose house was the perfect example of minimalism.

For people wishing to celebrate Mardi Gras Gras but unable to attend the parade, there are masquerade balls with fancy era-specific costumes and lots of delicious food and drinks to partake in.  And again, ballroom masks play a big part in the costume design of these parties.

Another popular tradition for Mardi Gras is to have a King Cake party.  This is when many people are invited over to one person's house to enjoy a homemade coffee cake.  Somewhere hidden in the cake is a bead and, while it is normally lucky to find coins and such hidden in a cake in Canada (of course anyone eating this cake is aware of the fact that it contains coins beforehand), it's a little bit unlucky to be the one to get that bead.  The person who discovers the bead must host the King Cake party the following year, as well as bake the coffee cake.  Hopefully that person will know how to bake a coffee cake and feel so inclined to do so.

Mardi Gras' origins date back to the Middle Ages, where people used to gorge themselves on delicious foods the night before they had to start fasting on Ash Wednesday.  So Mardi Gras is often referred to as Fat Tuesday due to the way people stuff themselves.  In England, Mardi Gras is called Pancake Day because they have the tradition of using up all the butter, milk, and eggs on the day before Ash Wednesday.  The simplest thing to make with all three ingredients is without a doubt pancakes.

The official colors for Mardi Gras are green, gold, and purple.  Green represents faith, gold stands for power, and purple symbolizes justice.

Vocabulary:

  • Official 公式
  • Elaborate 複雑な
  • Float 山車
  • Onlooker/observer 観客
  • Trinket 安物の宝石
  • Era-specific 時代得意的
  • Partake in ~に参加する
  • Inclined 〜の傾向がある
  • Gorge ガツガツ食べる