Mardi Gras is on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.
Before you order your king cakes and start your celebrations, here are five things to know about the holiday.
Mardi Gras technically refers to only one day.
Technically, Mardi Gras is only Fat Tuesday (the words “Mardi Gras” literally mean “Fat Tuesday” in French). But Mardi Gras can also refer to the entire season, which begins on the Christian holiday of Epiphany (Jan. 6) and lasts through Fat Tuesday. The season is known as Carnival in many parts of the world and ends at midnight on Ash Wednesday, which starts the Lenten season in the Christian faith.
The first American Mardi Gras dates back to 1699.
Why is New Orleans so commonly associated with Mardi Gras? That’s because on March 3, 1699, French explorers landed near where the city now sits in Louisiana and threw a small celebration since they knew it was Fat Tuesday back in France. The explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville camped about 60 miles away from present-day New Orleans and named it “Point du Mardi Gras.” A few years later, French soldiers threw a Mardi Gras celebration in present-day Mobile, Ala., and the city claims to have the oldest annual Mardi Gras celebration in the country, though New Orleans and other French settlements also celebrated the holiday in the years that followed.
The reason it’s called “Fat Tuesday” is to prepare for Lenten fasting.
Many Christians take part in fasting during the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday, so the day before the start of Lent, they often binged on foods they wouldn’t be able to eat during the season, like meat, eggs, milk and cheese.
Louisiana is the only U.S. state where Mardi Gras is a legal holiday.
That doesn’t stop the rest of us from celebrating, though.
King cakes refer to the biblical story of the three kings who brought gifts to newborn Jesus.
You’re lucky if you get the baby inside the king cake, too -- it means you get to bring the next cake or throw the next party so you and your loved ones can keep the party going.