Mardi Gras is often known for its extravagant costumes, large parades and colorful masks. What began as a religious observance before the 40 days of Lent has grown to an all-out series of parties.
Mardi Gras has become more than just a single day and encompasses a period of celebration.
Each year, various countries, like the U.S. and France, celebrate the Carnival season, according to Britannica. But when is Mardi Gras and how long is it? Here is what you need to know about the holiday.
When is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday," according to Britannica. It is traditionally celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, before Ash Wednesday, following the Christian liturgical calendar.
Historically, on this day, people were meant to use "all the fats in the home before Lent in preparation for fasting and abstinence," says Britannica. According to History.com, Christians would binge on all the rich, fatty foods, such as meat, eggs and cheese, in their home prior to the period of Lenten fasting.
Mardi Gras is a part of the Carnival festivities. The word "Carnival" derives from the medieval Latin word, "carnelevarium," which means to take away or remove meat, says History.com.
Today, these customs are not the primary focus of Mardi Gras. Instead, Mardi Gras in the U.S. is known for its parades, king cakes and beads of green, purple and gold.
Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, in 2023 is Feb. 21, 2023, according to mardigrasneworleans.com.
How long is Mardi Gras?
Although Mardi Gras technically refers to one specific day, Shrove Tuesday, it is often considered a whole season, according to mardigrasneworleans.com.
The first Mardi Gras festivities often take place on the Twelfth Night, or the Epiphany, on January 6, according to Britannica.
In the U.S., New Orleans follows this tradition with its celebrations starting on Jan. 6, 2023. These parades and events continue until the climax on official Mardi Gras.
The Mardi Gras celebrations last anywhere from four to eight weeks, depending on when Ash Wednesday lands, according to Condé Nast Traveler.
According to the French Quarter official website, on Mardi Gras Day outdoor celebrations last until midnight, and then you will be "asked to clear off the street."
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Is Mardi Gras celebrated every year?
Yes, Mardi Gras is generally celebrated every year. In 2021, the New Orleans parades were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was held in 2020 as the Carnival season ended on Feb. 25, 2020. The city’s first presumptive case of COVID-19 was identified on March 9, according to USA TODAY.
Mardi Gras festivities in 2023 are set for Feb. 21 in New Orleans.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: When is Mardi Gras 2023? Explaining the carnival and its festivities.