Flour, eggs, maple syrup and numerous amounts of pancake stuck to your kitchen ceiling. This is how many of us would have spent last Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Day. To be honest, a day where it is tradition to gorge yourself on a variety of sickly sweet pancakes, each one more drenched in lemon and sugar than the next, is fine by me. But in this country we seem to be missing out on something even more fun than stuffing our greedy faces. While we were busy eating pancakes last week, elsewhere in the world this pre-Lent festivity was celebrated by one of the biggest parties in the world – Mardi Gras. And what an awesome party it really is. What started off years ago as a bit of fun and merriment before the serious business of fasting for forty days and forty nights, has now turned into a fully-fledged carnival. So if you let last Tuesday go by in a haze of batter and flour, here is your whistle stop tour of international Mardi Gras celebrations to see what you really missed out on.
By far the most famous place for Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday as it so beautifully translates) is Rio in Brazil, the carnival capital of the world. The idea of a Rio carnival conjures up images of sequins, feathers, ruffles, colour and whole lot of fun – and that’s basically what Rio carnival is. Rio transforms itself into a rainbow of fun; from gorgeous costumes (or lack of) being shown off in colourful parades and street parties, to the legendary Samba Parade where people dance and sing their way around the streets of Rio. This is a party in the streets of a sexy, fun and vibrant city, no wonder it’s seen as one of the best.
If you didn’t think of Rio when you read the words Mardi Gras, then you would have most definitely thought of New Orleans. The party here has a three month build up that starts on Twelfth Night, and people patiently wait until early on Shrove Tuesday when they take to the streets of New Orleans’ French Quarter and party like it’s… well, Mardi Gras. The New Orleans’ celebrations are particularly famous for their parades, especially the Rex Parade. Rex is Latin for King, so the parade celebrates the King of Carnival. This parade is responsible for creating the carnival’s theme tune, and its official colours – gold, purple and green in case you were wondering. It also has a theme every year, drawn from the worlds of mythology and literature; this year the floats, bands, and Rex’s loyal subjects were adorned in the theme of ‘Fables of Fire and Flame ‘. New Orleans’ Mardi Gras also has the traditions of The Throws. This is where the parades throw trinkets into the crowds in answer to the traditional cry of ‘Throw me something, mister!’ Mardi Gras in New Orleans is scandalous, drunken and second to none.
Europe also has its fair share of Mardi Gras celebrations – rightly so since the idea of Mardi Gras was originally imported to the Americas by European settlers. Venice has one of the oldest and most luxurious festivals, each year with a more elaborate theme than the last – this year’s was ‘Six Senses for Six Districts’. The backdrop of such a romantic and beautiful city is also perfect for the variety of balls and magnificent parties. However, if you’re planning on doing a Mardi Gras in Venice next year, don’t even think about going anywhere without a costume – you might as well not even bother going at all.
From Venice, we go to France, the nation that gave us the gift of Mardi Gras in the first place. Nice is most famous for Mardi Gras there, when the city comes alive with light – Nice seems to become obsessed with firework displays and parades filled with colourful lights.
I have to be honest, after finding out about all this fun and frivolity, I feel pretty let down that all I did on Shrove Tuesday was eat a load of pancakes. Where exactly were our carnivals and parades? Next year I’m finding some sequins and popping on a plane – although I might treat myself to a few pancakes on the way!