Mardi Gras Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

You may have heard of the celebration of Mardi Gras, but do you really know how it got started? In this lesson, learn about this holiday's long history, popular traditions, and famous celebrations.

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is a Christian holiday that is celebrated the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the day that begins a Christian season called Lent. During this season, which lasts until Easter, Christians are supposed to give up bad habits or fast from certain foods. Mardi Gras literally means 'Fat Tuesday' in French. It is a day (and night) to live it up and enjoy one last day of fun before being disciplined during Lent.

Mardi Gras often means music, celebrations, and dancing before the season of Lent.
Mardi Gras child celebrating

History of the Holiday

Mardi Gras was originally celebrated in medieval Europe, particularly Italy and France. The first record of celebrating Mardi Gras in the United States is in the early 1700s. These celebrations were in New Orleans, and were more like fancy balls or dances. The carnival atmosphere did not occur until later in the 1700s. In the 1800s, the first Mardi Gras parades began, and the king of the parade became a regular symbol of the festivities. Mardi Gras was declared a legal holiday in Louisiana in 1875.

Symbols and Colors

There are many famous symbols that represent this exciting holiday. Many people enjoy a King Cake. This sugary dessert has a plastic baby baked inside. The tradition is that the person who gets the piece with the baby inside will have good luck and prosperity. Mardi Gras beads are necklaces that many people wear. They are often made in the official Mardi Gras colors of gold which represents power, purple which represents justice and green which represents faith . You may see people wearing masks in these colors as well.

This King Cake is covered with the traditional purple, gold and green colors of Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras King Cake

Famous Celebrations

The most famous celebration of Mardi Gras in the United States is still held in New Orleans, Louisiana. Thousands of people fill the streets to enjoy parades and music. If you enjoy large crowds, wild people and loud music then Mardi Gras in New Orleans is your kind of party!

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