40 Facts You Probably Never Knew About Mardi Gras

Fix yourself a Sazerac and let these tidbits transport you to NOLA.

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Fat Tuesday is upon us once again. Even if you can't book a trip to New Orleans, this trivia will make you feel like you're right there on Bourbon Street.

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Mardi Gras is the culmination of carnival celebrations before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. The term Mardi Gras only refers to the final day, also known as Fat Tuesday.

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The first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was held in 1838.

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Different parades are held in neighborhoods throughout the city. They're organized by groups called krewes that are usually named for figures of Greek or Roman mythology. Each krewe chooses a new parade theme every year.

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The Mistick Krewe of Comus is credited with making New Orleans the most popular Mardi Gras destination in the United States when they introduced floats to the parade in 1857. Comus is the Greek God of Revelry.

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Around 1.4 million people visit New Orleans during carnival season.

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Carnival season in New Orleans officially kicks off every year on Twelfth Night (which marks the Epiphany) when a group called the Phunny Phorty Phellows rides down St. Charles in a streetcar throwing out the first beads.


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There are over 70 parades held throughout the New Orleans metropolitan area during carnival season.

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Krewe of Rex, founded in 1872, is responsible for originating several Mardi Gras traditions including the official colors and giving out Spanish gold coins.

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Purple, gold, and green are the official Mardi Gras colors. They were selected by Rex Krewe to honor visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff because they were his family colors.

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The purple represents justice, gold represents power, and green represents faith.

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The Krewe of Rex also selected the theme song "If Ever I Cease to Love," which has since been adopted as the anthem for Mardi Gras.

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It's believed that the bead-throwing tradition started in the 1880s when a man dressed as Santa became popular with the crowd for tossing them. Other krewes took notice and adopted it.

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The beads used to be made of glass but are now primarily made of plastic.

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The city estimates around 25 million pounds of beads get thrown into the streets each year.

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Parade attendees request the trinkets by yelling the phrase "Throw me something mister!"

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Although beads are the most common, many of the krewes offer up various trinkets to the crowd as they make their way down the street.

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One of the most coveted trinkets to catch is a golden coconut thrown during the Zulu parade.

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Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club (Krewe of Zulu) is the oldest African-American krewe. They have been parading since 1909.

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It is required by law for people on floats to be wearing masks.

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The masks are worn to allow people to "escape society and class constraints."

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The parade thrown by the Krewe of Bacchus is one of the main attractions every year because of their over-the-top floats and because they tap celebrities every year to dress up as Bacchus, the Greek God of Wine.

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King Bacchus 2018 is J.K. Simmons. Previous kings include William Shatner, Anthony Mackie, and Nicolas Cage.

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Some krewes have been known to spend over $200,000 on their floats. A company called Kern Studios has been offering up their float-building services to Mardi Gras paraders since 1932.

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The street parades may draw the biggest crowds but each krewe also organizes a Mardi Gras ball, many of which are considered the social events of the season. They are planned by each krewe's king and queen who are not revealed until the night of the ball.

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The doughy pastry known as king cake is the traditional Mardi Gras treat. The person who finds the hidden plastic baby in their slice is supposed to have good luck all year and is responsible for bringing the king cake to the next party.

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An estimated 500,000 king cakes are sold each year during carnival season.

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Hurricanes may be a year-round NOLA tradition, but cocktails made with a Spanish anise-flavored liqueur called Ojen is also popular this time of year. The spirit's original manufacturers stopped making it in the 1990's, but the Sazerac Company concocted their own recipe and started selling it again in 2016.

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Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans have been canceled 12 times, mostly because of wars. The last time it was canceled was in 1945 because of WWII.

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The 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans forced the city to change the parade schedule so nothing would take place on game day.

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Carnival celebrations originated in Nice, France with earliest records dating back to 1294.

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