Inside The History of Mardi Gras

Image: PHOTO: The Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans is the place to be for every great event in The Big Easy. (Courtesy Flickr/Britt Reints)
Image: PHOTO: The Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans is the place to be for every great event in The Big Easy. (Courtesy Flickr/Britt Reints)
Lisa Iannucci
by Lisa Iannucci
Last updated: 3:15 PM ET, Mon January 23, 2017

This year, on Feb. 28, travelers will don their purple, green and gold and flock to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras.

There will be parades in the street, floats, festivals, music, entertainment and, of course, beads and food. But what exactly is this popular event and why is it celebrated?

First thing to know is that this is not a New Orleans-specific holiday. In fact, Mardi Gras is a celebration that takes place worldwide and can be traced to medieval Europe to the French House of the Bourbons. Mardi Gras refers to events of the Carnival celebrations, and reflects the night of eating fatty foods before beginning the sacrifice of the Catholic Lenten season. This is where Mardi Gras gets its Fat Tuesday nickname.

According to the History Channel, on Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students donned colorful costumes and danced through the streets of New Orleans, emulating what they saw when they visited the celebration in Paris. A decade later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place. While Mardi Gras celebrations take place in other states and around the world, Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday.

The purple, gold and green colors, again according to the History Channel, came from Rex, one of the oldest Mardi Gras krewes that has participated in parades since 1872. Purple stands for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.

[READMORE]READ MORE: Royal Sonesta Opens Revamped Grand Ballroom[/READMORE]

Today some of the Mardi Gras celebratory traditions include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake.

This is one of the most popular times to visit New Orleans, so if you are thinking of visiting this year, act fast. Mardi Gras is touted mostly as a family-friendly event, but there is also Family Gras, a free, three-day festival of concerts that takes place on the neutral ground of Veterans Memorial Boulevard across from Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie, Louisiana. There's also New Orleans food, a local art market, a kids' zone, and Mardi Gras parades.

If you're planning to visit New Orleans for this year's Mardi Gras celebration, The Royal Sonesta New Orleans is located right in the French Quarter on Bourbon Street, which is in the middle of the festivities. The beautiful hotel has 483 guest rooms and is home to several dining and entertainment venues, where you can enjoy a traditional Cajun or creole meal, enjoy some jazz music at their Jazz Playhouse, or raise a toast to the Mardi Gras Le Booze, one of their five bars.

The hotel is decorated with gabled windows, French doors and wrought-iron balconies, and every room has a perfect view of the French Quarter where you can look down on the crowds. There are Governor and Ambassador Suites with extra bedrooms and a dressing parlor (where you can put on your Mardi Gras costume), a Presidential Suite with marble floors and a dining room and foyer, and an R Club Lounge suite with personalized service.

If you don't need something so lavish, the deluxe rooms feature custom, contemporary furnishings, one king bed, two double or two queen beds and a seating area and work space.

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Lisa Iannucci

Lisa Iannucci

Lisa Iannucci has written many travel articles for national magazines and newspapers. Over the years, her travel articles have...

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