Any celebration that includes parades, costumes, beads, masks, King Cakes, and adult beverages can’t be all bad.
And, like just about every other holiday or celebration in the United States, it’s big business.
Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, has gone well beyond its Gulf Coast start and is spreading its bead-laden roots throughout the United States.
The annual celebration seems to have grown exponentially over the past decade. Universal Studios Orlando touts its 2019 Mardi Gras as “Florida’s biggest party,” complete with specialty neon cocktails.
Tracing its origins from 17th and 18th century Europe and France, this traditional revelry of “Boeuf Gras,” or fatted calf, got its start in the United States at the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile, aka Mobile, Alabama, in 1703.
But, by 1718, soon after New Orleans was founded, Mardi Gras, as we know it, took off.
The combination of southern coastal regions, cities situated along the Mississippi River, and the French ancestry of many of those working near these areas helped to expand Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras is the last night of Carnival season, which begins with the 12th night after Christmas. It’s also the night before Lent.
Depending on where it falls on the calendar, Mardi Gras can occur anywhere from early February to as late as Mid-March.
Celebrated mainly in areas with large Catholic populations, Carnival is the big “blowout” leading up to Lent.
Huntsville’s local community and city visitors participate in the celebration Mardi Gras, which provides a little boost to the city’s economy.
Available only during Carnival, King Cake is typically made with braided brioche dough, laced with cinnamon. The dough is then glazed with icing and topped with purple, green, and gold sugar. From plain to fruit and cream cheese filling, King Cakes of all varieties are available for purchase at the local grocery stores, specialty bakeries, or ordered online from regional bakeries. What sets a King Cake apart from other kinds of cakes is the small plastic Baby Jesus inside. Tradition has it that whoever finds the baby in their slice is obliged to buy the next King Cake.
During the late 1800s, glass beads were tossed into the crowds by the parade Krewes, thus becoming an instant hit among the New Orleans revelers. Beads still are the most popular parade “throw” passed out in parades, only now, those beloved tossed beads are usually made of plastic.
Everyone Loves A Parade
Aside from the random smatterings of celebrations at many of the local bars, Huntsville’s present version of Mardi Gras didn’t fully get on the radar until 2014, the year of its first parade. The inaugural Mardi Gras parade and festivities drew about 500 costumed participants, with thousands more watching from the sidewalks.
As in New Orleans, Fat Tuesday in Huntsville will be quiet by comparison, but local eateries, such as Cajun Steamer and PoBoy Factory, and a few others will celebrate March 5.