Mardi Gras—Let the Good Times Roll!
Mardi Gras, with its fancy costumes, lively parades and marching bands, is one of America’s oldest and most colorful celebrations. This festival, which is held over several days in February or March, is mainly associated with New Orleans, but also celebrated in Mobile, Alabama, Biloxi, Mississippi and other U.S. cities with French heritage. Meaning “Fat Tuesday” in French, Mardi Gras was traditionally the last day to eat, drink and be merry before Lent, the 40 days of prayer and fasting that lead up to Easter.
Known as Carnival (from the Latin carne vale, or “farewell to meat”) in most Catholic countries (Brazil’s Carnaval is the most famous), Mardi Gras was first brought to America in 1699 by French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, who was sent to claim Louisiana for France. Indeed, Louisiana was named after the French King Louis XIV. While the territory later became part of the U.S. after the Louisiana Purchase, the tradition of Mardi Gras continued.
First celebrated with masked balls and formal dinners, Mardi Gras changed forever when a group of young men returned to New Orleans from a visit to France in 1829. Imitating the festivities they’d seen in Paris, they danced through the streets in colorful costumes, starting the tradition of Mardi Gras parades. Floats and marching bands were added in 1857 by a group of local businessmen calling themselves the Mistick Krewe of Comus.
Ever since then, rival “krewes” have competed to see who can put on the best parade, and who can toss the best “throws”—beads, plastic coins and other trinkets—to the crowds. Mardi Gras has become such an important part of New Orleans culture over the years that not even two world wars, or Hurricane Katrina, have kept the locals from “letting the good times roll.”
在多數天主教國家俗稱嘉年華會（源於拉丁文的「carne vale」， 為「告別肉食」之意，以巴西的嘉年華會最負盛名），狂歡節最早在一六九九年由法國探險家皮耶里蒙迪艾伯維爾帶入美洲，他原是被法國派去宣示路易斯安那的主權。的確，路易斯安那是以法王路易十四為名。雖然該地歷經「路易斯安那購地」成為美國領土，狂歡節的傳統依然延續。
costume (n.) 道具服，變裝服
carnival (n.) 嘉年華會
explorer (n.) 探險家
imitate (v.) 模仿
hurricane (n.) 颶風