Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake day in the UK, is always the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent. With religious ties, the day is meant for self-reflection and feasting before beginning a 40 day fast leading up to Easter.
In French influenced regions of the United States (the coastal regions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama particularly), this Tuesday is known as Mardi Gras or ‘Fat Tuesday‘ in English. The Tuesday signifies the end of the Carnival season that begins after the Epiphany in January. For weeks, there are celebrations and parades to mark the occasion.
Costumes can grow in size, so big they must be supported while on the floats.
Like showgirl outfits, they are adorned with many feathers and are brightly colored.
Even the pets join in!
King cakes are a special treat during Mardi Gras. A king cake is made of a brioche like dough typically twisted and formed into a ring. It’s often covered in icing and Mardi Gras colored sugar (purple, green and gold/yellow). Modern fillings vary greatly and can include cream cheese, strawberry, apple, cinnamon and praline. Traditionally, a small baby figurine is placed inside the cake. The person receiving the piece of cake containing the figurine is tasked with buying the next king cake.
Those attending the parades arrive early to claim a spot on the pavement to stand and catch beads, moonpies, cups and coins that are thrown from the floats.
Moonpies are marshmallow cream sandwiched between two biscuits covered in chocolate.
Beads are nearly always made of plastic but the coins can be metal. The more elaborate and expensive beads tossed into the crowd can stir up trouble among the onlookers as they jostle for possession and envy can encourage creative bargaining strategies.
Often, beads get stuck on power lines, rooftops or in trees creating a semi-permanent festive decoration.
Mardi Gras is celebrated similarly in other parts of the world like Brazil and Australia but this holiday is an important part of the Gulf Coast heritage and culture and the unique brand you experience in the coastal region of the Southeastern United States offers a jazzy hospitality like no other.