The history of Mardi Gras began long before Europeans set foot in the New World. In mid February the ancient Romans celebrated the Lupercalia, a circus like festival not entirely unlike the Mardi Gras we are familiar with today. When Rome embraced Christianity, the early Church fathers decided it was better to incorporate certain aspects of pagan rituals into the new faith rather than attempt to abolish them altogether. Carnival became a period of abandon and merriment that preceded the penance of Lent, thus giving a Christian interpretation to the ancient custom.
Mardi Gras came to America in 1699 with the French explorer Iberville. Mardi Gras had been celebrated in
Paris since the Middle Ages, where it was a major holiday. Iberville sailed into the Gulf of Mexico, from where he launched an expedition up the Mississippi River. On March 3 of 1699, Iberville set up a camp on the west bank of the river about 60 miles south of where New Orleans is today. This was the day Mardi Gras was being celebrated in France. In honor of this important day, Iberville named the site Point du Mardi Gras.
The Late Eighteenth Century
During the late 1700's, pre2Lenten masked balls and festivals were common in New Orleans, La. while it was under French rule. However when New Orleans came under Spanish rule the custom was banned. In 1803 New Orleans came under the U.S. flag. The prohibition against masked festivals continued until 1823 when the Creole populace convinced the governor to permit masked balls. In 1827 street masking was again legalized.
Mardi Gras In Mobile, Al.
This festive event was started in Mobile and according to some accounts, dates back to 1703. The celebration was originally called Boef Gras (Fat Beef).
The well2known Mardi Gras in Mobile was begun by Michael Krafft. On New Year's Eve, 1830, Krafft and his friends were reluctant to end a dinner party at the customary time. They raided a nearby hardware store, took up rakes, hoes and cowbells and proceeded to wake the town. They soon formed the Cowbellion de Rakin Society, the first of Mobile's many modern mystic organizations. The Cowbellions presented their first parade, complete with floats and theme, in 1840. The Civil War brought revelry in Mobile to an abrupt halt. Joseph Stillwell Cain, on Fat Tuesday of 1866, donned full Chickasaw Indian regalia, dubbed himself Chief Slacabamorinico. Cain and six friends set out to raise the morale of citizens in the defeated city. Dubbing themselves the "Tea Drinkers", and fired up by drink much stronger than tea, they took to the streets in a decorated coal wagon pulled by a mule. Cain was a founder in the Order of Myths, the organization which today holds the final Carnival Season parade Mardi Gras night. He also helped organize many more parading societies. Cain's role in reviving Mardi Gras is observed each year on the Sunday before Mardi Gras Day, "Joe Cain Day." On "Joe Cain Day" thousands of Mobilians in costume and on individually designed floats parade through the streets of downtown Mobile.
The Nineteenth Century
During the early 1800's public celebrations of Mardi Gras centered around maskers on foot, in carriages and
on horseback. The first documented parade occurred in 1837. Unfortunately, Mardi Gras gained a negative
reputation because of violent behavior attributed to maskers during the 1840's and 50's. The situation became
so bad that the press began calling for an end to the celebration.
In 1857 six New Orleaneans saved Mardi Gras by forming the Comus organization. These six men were
former members of the Cowbellians, an organization which had put on New Year's Eve parades in Mobile
since 1831. The Comus organization added beauty to Mardi Gras and demonstrated that it could be a safe and festive event. Comus was the first organization to use the term krewe to describe itself. Comus also started the customs of having a secret Carnival society, having a parade with a unifying theme with floats, and of having a ball after the parade. Comus was also the first organization to name itself after a mythological character. The celebration of Mardi Gras was interrupted by the Civil War, but in 1866 Comus returned.
In 1870 the Twelfth Night Revelers made their appearance. In 1871 they began the custom of presenting a
young woman with a golden bean hidden in a cake. This young woman was the first queen of Mardi Gras. This was also the origin of the king cake tradition.
In 1872 Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia visited New Orleans. This year the krewe of Rex made their
debut and began the tradition of the "King of Carnival." Rex also introduced purple, gold and green as the
official colors of Mardi Gras. Rex was the first krewe to hold an organized daytime parade and introduced "If
Ever I Cease To Love" as the Mardi Gras anthem. One of the high points of Rex is the arrival of the Rex King
on a riverboat. 1872 also saw the debut of the Knights of Momus on New Year's Eve.
Ten years later in 1882, the Krewe of Proteus made its debut with a parade themed after Egyptian mythology. In 1890 the first marching club, The Jefferson City Buzzards, was organized. In 1894, the Original Illinois Club was formed as the first black Mardi Gras organization. In 1896 Les Mysterieuses appeared as the first female organization.
Mardi Gras in the Twentieth Century
crown. He arrived on on oyster lugger instead of a steamboat. Zulu was destined to become one of the most
popular and beloved of all krewes.
Mardi Gras was canceled during the dark years of 1918 and 1919 when the United States was involved in the bloody fighting of the First World War. The celebration struggled through the 1920's and early 30's, which saw Prohibition and The Great Depression.
The krewe of Alla brought carnival to the West Bank in 1934.
With the rise of mass produced automobiles, random truck riders had become part of the Mardi Gras scene. In 1835 they organized themselves into the Elkes Krewe of Orleanians. The Krewe of Hermes appeared in 1937 and the Knights of Babylon in 1939.
Mardi Gras prospered during the 1940's, although it was canceled during the war years. In 1949 Louis
Armstrong was King of the Zulu parade and was pictured on the cover of time magazine.
In 1950 the Duke and Duchess of Windsor visited New Orleans during Mardi Gras. They honored the New
Orleans Mardi Gras tradition by bowing to kings of Rex and Comus at the Comus ball. The Korean War put a damper on festivities in 1951, but several krewes joined forces to parade as the Krewe of Patria on Mardi Gras day. The Fifties also saw the replacement of mule drawn floats with ones drawn by tractors and the formation of several new krewes including Zeus. Zeus was the first krewe to parade in Metairie.
In 1961 Pete Fountain founded the Half2Fast Walking Club, an immediate hit with the crowds. Zulu came under pressure from portions of the black community who thought the krewe presented an undignified image. The king resigned and the parade was almost cancelled, but Zulu survived and was a main attraction by 1969. The Sixties ended with the debut of Bacchus. Bacchus aimed to bring national attention to Mardi Gras with gigantic floats and a Hollywood celebrity (Danny Kaye) riding as its king. Bacchus replaced the traditional ball with a supper to which tickets could be purchased by visitors and locals.
The Seventies saw the debut of 18 new krewes and the demise of 18 others. More than a dozen krewes
followed the lead of Bacchus by placing celebrities in their parades. In 1974 Argus became the first Metairie
parade on Fat Tuesday. This year also saw Endymion's rise to super krewe status. The Seventies brought a
ban on parading in the French Quarter, ending a 117 year tradition. Mardi Gras made national headlines at the close of the decade with a police strike which cancelled 13 parades in Orleans Parish.
In the 80's Mardi Gras gained 27 new parades and lost 19. St. Bernard Parish suffered a net loss of parades
while Jefferson and St. Tammany Parish experienced continued growth. By the end of the decade Jefferson
Parish was experiencing an attendance rate of 600,000 people at its parades on Fat Tuesday.
The 1980's were good times for Mardi Gras. In 1987 Rex brought back the custom of Lundi Gras, the arrival of the Rex King on the Mississippi River which had been celebrated from 1874 through 1917. The traditional tableau ball, however, lost popularity. Once considered essential, only 10 krewes continued the tradition of masked balls by the end of the decade. Doubloons also lost some of their popularity when several krewes stopped producing them.
More About the Seed and Root of Mardi Gras
As we see, Mardi Gras did not originate in the USA as many believe. Mardi Gras actually started in the
Roman Empire around the year 753 BC under another name, Festival of Lupercus. Let’s learn more about “the pagan roots”.
The Ancient Pagan Festival of Lupercus, Roman God of Fertility the true beginning of Mardi Gras
LUPERCALIA, a very ancient, possibly pre2Roman, pastoral festival in honour of Lupercus. Its rites were under the superintendence of a corporation of priests called Luperci, whose institution is attributed either to the Arcadian Evander, or to Romulus and Remus. In front of the Porta Romana, on the western side of the
Palatine hill, close to the Ficus Ruminalis and the Casa Romuli, was the cave of Lupercus; in it, according to
the legend, the she2wolf had suckled the twins, and the bronze wolf, which is still preserved in the Capitol, was placed in it in 296 B.C. But the festival itself, which was held on February 15th, contains no reference to the Romulus legend, which is probably later in origin, though earlier than the grecizing Evander legend. The
festival began with the sacrifice by the Luperci (or the flamen dialis) of goats and a dog; after which two of the
Luperci were led to the altar, their foreheads were touched with a bloody knife, and the blood wiped off with
wool dipped in milk; then the ritual required that the two young men should laugh. The smearing of the
forehead with blood probably refers to human sacrifice originally practised at the festival. The sacrificial feast
followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the victims and ran in two bands round the walls
of the old Palatine city,. the line of which was marked with stones, striking the people who crowded near. A
blow from the thong prevented sterility in women. These thongs were called februa, the festival Februatio, and
the day dies febraiatus (februare = to purify); hence the name of the month February, the last of the old Roman year. The object of the festival was, by expiation and purification, to secure the fruitfulness of the land, the increase of the flocks and the prosperity of the whole people. The Lupercal (cave of Lupercus), which had fallen into a state of decay, was rebuilt by Augustus; the celebration of the festival had been maintained, as we know from the famous occurrence of it in 44 B.C. It survived until A.D. 494, when it was changed by Gelasius into the feast of the Purification. Lupercus, in whose honour the festival.was held, is identified with Faunus or Inuus, Evander (Eiiavnpos), in the Greek legend being a translation of Faunus (the "kindly"). The Luperci were divided into two collegia, called Quinctiliani (or Quinctiales) and Fabiani, from the gens Quinctilia (or Quinctia) 2 and Fabia; at the head of each of these colleges was a magister. In 44 B.C. a third college, Luperci Julii, was instituted in honor of Julius Caesar, the first magister of which was Mark Antony. In imperial times the members were usually of equestrian standing.
As early as the fourth century B.C., young men left their love to chance, drawing their partners by lot during the Lupercalia festival, a Roman celebration to celebrate spring and fertility. Through the love lottery, a man won a woman's companionship and sexual pleasuring until the next year's drawing. It is believed that Valentine’s Day originated by this practice.
Imagine running around town in a goatskin tunic, whipping young women with a rawhide thong smeared in dog blood. This is what people did until 496 A.D. Happy Lupercalia!
In conclusion there is nothing family oriented, Christian, or good about Mardi Gras. Actually it represents
diabolic roots and compromise of true Biblical Christian beliefs. It actually taints the testimony of “Christians” to the unbelieving world but thousands of so called “Christians” that participate in this pagan festival.
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1Thesalonians 5:22
May God have mercy on the sick church.
It is time that the True Body of Christ stand for what is true and Holy and be an example to the world of what
Jesus and God are really about not a watered down gospel.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that
believethM” Romans 1:16 “For which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” 2Ti 1:12214
What should we do as Bible believing Christians?
Pray, fast, and declare truth.
1. For Professing Christians. That they would not compromise the testimony of Christ by
participating in Pagan Holidays including Mardi Gras. That they will practice the Word of God
not just know it.
2. That Christians will speak the truth in love to all. Without the proclamation of truth people will
believe lies and be deceived.
3. Against the seductive and evil spirits that are loosed in our country during this time. Christians
should be a spiritual covering and protection for our country but when we compromise the truth
holes are put in the spiritual umbrella and the evil spirits have a right to enter.
4. That Christians will be a witness when doors are open and stand firm on beliefs even before
5. Against principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness over our city, state, and country
(Ephesians 6: 11218).
King James Version of Bible
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Article by Jim Davis in Communities Online Inc.
Jerry Morris- TheFathersHouseMobile.com