Mardi Gras History
Mardi Gras Galveston - A History
Mardi Gras! Fat Tuesday! Carnival! The
BIG PARTY! No one knows where or when the custom started - and
many of us don't care! Some people trace it to the Romans, whose
pagan orgies were held during the spring season. All we really
know is it dates back to primitive man's celebration of "The
Coming of the Blossom of New Life". The Greeks and Romans
twisted this celebration into an excuse for lawlessness and Debauchery.
The newly founded Christian church tried to stamp out this practice
but succumbed to the resistance and adapted it as part of the
church ritual as a day of feast before the Lenten season of fast
and promise. The word carnival which was adopted to mean Mardi
Gras comes from the Latin term "Carnelevarre" (farewell
to flesh) as a result of these ritual parties before Lent.
In 1699 Mardi Gras moved to the New World. A French nobleman Pierre Le Moyne', declares his camp "Pointe du Mardi Gras", (Mardi Gras Point) and his crew of explorers conducts the first recorded Mardi Gras celebration on a small island in the Mississippi River just downstream from the site of modern New Orleans. He then continued upriver to found the site of the future city as Louisiana's first European settler's entered the Mississippi Delta Gulf Coast Region. This point is located 60 miles downstream, from Algiers Point in New Orleans on the river.
1700s New Orleans, under French rule, starts celebrating pre-Lenten balls. The Marquis de Vaudreuil, early Louisiana governor, has established elegant society balls that became the model for the upper class Mardi Gras Carnival Ball Masque celebrations of later generations. These balls are held at his home and could have started as early as 1741.
Late 1700s Spain takes over and bans the balls. What do you expect from a country that started the Inquisition?
In 1803 United States assumes ownership of New Orleans as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The ban continues.
In 1805 United States Census for New Orleans at the time, counts 3551 whites, 3105 slaves, 1566 free people of color, and 253 of "all other persons" in New Orleans. Total of 8475 inhabitants. First "Quadroon", or Creole Ball (ball for all colors) held during Carnival season. William Claiborne, is Governor.
In 1806 Americans acting on a "rumor", bans masking, and balls, as a possible cover for spies for Aaron Burr. Burr who killed Alexander Hamilton in the famous duel was rumored to be planning a take over of New Orleans to form his own empire in the United States.
In 1823 Creoles finally get Americans to reinstate balls.
In 1827 Masking on the street becomes legal.
In 1831 Mobile, Alabama, saw the origin of the "Cowbellion de Rakin Society" by Michael Kraft. This began with a group of young men celebrating by stumbling out into the streets clanging rakes, gongs and cowbells as they went. Most experts say this is where Mardi Gras Parades began.
In 1837 New Orleans soon picked up this tradition by parading through the city streets at night. First recorded reports of New Orleans street processions of maskers in long lines of carriages, and on horseback. These are mostly Creoles who have celebrated for some years now among themselves African men would lead these parades dancing their native dances while holding fire torches. The flambeau carriers lighted the parade path throughout the city. This tradition is still part of New Orleans Mardi Gras today in the Flambeau Parade.
In 1841 Hundreds mask as Bedouins Society (Made up of Creoles) stage the first formal parade in New Orleans.
In 1857 New Orleans is the forming of the first "Krewe". The name Krewe was adopted by carnival organizations for their groups and spelled the old English way with a "K". The first and oldest is the Mystic Krewe of Comus founded in 1857 by six upscale Orleanians (it's still a haven for local elite). It was the Krewe of Comus who planned the first organized Mardi Gras parade around a theme and used flambeauxs to light the procession. They molded the Mardi Gras into the Carnival Season it is today.
Their dedication to party and have a great time could not be swayed. Even the prohibition of float building during the War Between The States could not keep the Krewe of Comus from parading through the streets of New Orleans on foot. They knew that Mardi Gras could be preserved with planning, organization, and management of the celebrations and had a lot to do with shaping Mardi Gras: The group coined the term "Krewe" for its secret organization, presented a themed parade with floats and costumed riders and staged a tableau ball.
Not only are they the First Krewe, They are the first Krewe to; (1) choose a mythological namesake, (2) present a themed parade, (3) first to use floats in a Carnival parade, (4) and follow it with a Tableau Ball
In 1867 Mardi Gras in Galveston, Texas started but officially had a revival of Mardi Gras on Galveston Island in 1984.
In 1871 Carnival's second Krewe emerges as the Twelfth Night Reveler's. They select Mardi Gras's First ever queen by drawing a golden bean from a King Cake. They hold the first grand march at a masked ball. First account of "Throws". They started the throwing trinkets and candy from floats which evolved from the practice of throwing sugar coated almonds called "Dragee" into the crowd
In 1872 The Krewe of Rex established the
King of Carnival, and an international symbol of the holiday.
And shaped a lot of traditions, like organizing the first daytime
parade and deciding that Carnival colors would be purple, green