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The Many International Versions of Mardi Gras

It’s Mardi Gras day today with celebrations happening all around the world. Mardi Gras is the period of time prior to the somber, fasting period of Lent for many Christians all over the world. It’s basically the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Many say that Mardi Gras is actually a season commencing on Jan. 6th and culminating on Fat Tuesday, which also happens to be the English translated version of Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday is also known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday, depending on where you are in the world. Interestingly, the original Mardi Gras started in the U.S., in Mobile, Alabama back in 1703, not New Orleans.

Mardi Gras is well known for the colorful beaded necklaces including the color purple representing justice; gold representing power and green representing faith.

New Orleans first recorded parades as early as 1837. Other celebrations in the U.S. include Galveston, Texas, Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida.

The largest carnival in the world is alleged to be the "Rio Carnaval" in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with 2 million people per day on the streets for the event. The first festivals of Rio date back to 1723.

Interestingly, Italy has a number of different Mardi Gras events including one in Venice that dates as far back as 1268 with masked balls and parades. The Tuscany region of Italy also has the famous Viareggio Carnival with wagons in their parade measuring over 65 feet high! Not to be left out, Rome also hosts a "Carnevale" with 'floats, processions, costumes and a lot of noise'.

And then, funnily enough, there's also another in Ivrea, Italy in the north that has a tradition of throwing oranges between organized groups, aptly named the "Battle of the Oranges". It's also considered to be the 'largest food fight' in Italy... My Dad would hate this one! ;)

Cologne, Germany’s “Fifth Season” also known as “Crazy Days” is their version of Mardi Gras. It attracts approximately one million visitors to the city.

The famous Bondi Beach in Australia celebrates Mardi Gras with "Drag" races on the beach. There are also a ton of other events in and around the Sydney area during this very festive season including parades and other fun events.

Trinidad & Tobago also celebrate Mardi Gras with their Trinidad Carnival. It's considered the "Mother of Caribbean Carnival" and evolved from the French plantations in Spanish Trinidad with their masquerade balls.

And then there's my family's tradition, celebrated at the same time as Mardi Gras with it being called Pancake Tuesday, otherwise also known more religiously as Shrove Tuesday. Shrove is the past tense of 'shrive' meaning "to impose penance on a sinner". Not that we were ever that religious as a family, but I very clearly remember my Mom's famous crepes!! Yum! Many countries celebrate this season in the same manner including Ireland, the U.K. Australia and Canada.

Crazy isn't it?! From masquerade parties to colorful dress-up parades to orange battles to pancakes... go figure?! Places around the world celebrate this particular holiday in such extreme ways and I must admit, it was really interesting researching this one, don't you think?!

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