February 27, 1827: Mardi Gras is celebrated for the first time in New Orleans, Louisiana with masked balls. Amazingly enough, the first public celebrations of Mardi Gras were somewhat violent and the celebration gained a negative reputation. During the 1840s and 50s, things were so bad, the press began calling for banning the event. In 1857 six men in New Orleans formed the Comus organization. They advocated for a safe and non-violent celebration such as they had been putting on for a New Year’s Eve parade in Mobile, Alabama since 1831. They prevailed and the celebrations continued, interrupted by the US Civil War.
Long ago in ancient Rome there was a circus-like celebration in mid-February called Lapercalia. The Catholic Church incorporated this feast into their own calendar and changed it’s name and meaning. Carnival [Italian for “without meat’] is a celebratory period lasting from January 6 [the feast of the Epiphany] until the beginning of Lent.
Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent or 40 days before Easter. King’s Cakes, treats of the season, are colored with the traditional Mardi Gras colors – purple for justice; green for faith; and gold for power. During the late 1700s while New Orleans was under French rule, there were masked balls and festivals. When the area came under Spanish rule, these were banned.
Then, in 1803 New Orleans finally fell under the jurisdiction of the US flag. It took until 1823 for the prohibition against masked balls to be lifted. In 1827 they were once again legalized. In 1837, they had their first parade in the tradition still practiced today. In 1870 the Twelfth Night Revelers joined the festivities and the next year golden beads hidden in cakes were presented to a young woman who became the first queen of Mardi Gras. By 1882, the Krewe of Proteus joined the parade and in 1890 the first marching club joined the parade. The fun continued to grow as the revelers descended on New Orleans. So … show us your … ummm … beads.
“[N]o party is any fun unless seasoned with folly.” – Desiderius Erasmus
“Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”” – Robin Williams
“I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.” – Nancie J. Carmody
“Drink, and dance and laugh and lie,
Love the reeling midnight through,
For tomorrow we shall die!
(But, alas, we never do.)” – Dorothy
Also on this day, in 1864, Andersonville prison opened.