Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday". It is the day of dancing, eccentrically disguising oneself and eating tasty pastries.
Marci Gras- surprisingly practical
Why do people bake doughnuts on Mardi Gras? The answer to this question is very simple. The custom is connected with the coming of Lent, the time of which people eat fasting dishes. If you are the one, that sees doughnuts only in the window shop or on your plate, you probably don't know, that baking is connected with the usage of large quantities of fat. To bake them you need butter, lard or oil. People used to bake doughnuts to have something sweet to eat and to use all of the butter and lard, that was in the house. When Lent comes, those things are untouchable. It is also a reason why people eat a lot of those doughnuts.
Doughnuts of France
French people not only eat donuts (beignets), but also pancakes (crêpes) and waffles (gaufres). Such things are of great importance to the French, who are famous for their cuisine. What people eat exactly, is dependent on the region they live in. A popular kind of baking is called "merveille". It consists of pieces of fruits covered with batter. "Oreitelles" are also pastries of huge popularity. This type of nosh is flat and deep-fried. Its name is derived from the elements of a suit of armour, which is used to protect the ears of the warrior. Since baking is an important custom to Mardi Gras, there is also another custom, connected to it. Children are being sent to ask neighbours for ingredients, necessary to make pastries. Things like these were meant to bring good luck and prosperity to the household.
Carnivals and parades: past and present
Parades are an integral part of the carnival celebrations. People disguise themselves and wear masks. There is an important distinction between the way the carnival used to be celebrated, and how it is done now. It is about the way people participate in the event. Today there is a clear division between the actors, which are being paid to wear the disguise and act, and the audience, who watch the show. Of course, one may also wear extravagant makeup or a mask. Yet in the past, nearly every participant of the carnival used to disguise themselves instead of just watching the show. The celebrations were less formal and sprang from natural needs to play around and do joyful things.
Carnivals and parades throughout France
One of the oldest carnivals, traditions of which are still alive, is the carnival of Nantes. It used to be celebrated even in medieval times and it is still extremely popular among the French. The most popular celebrations, though, are held in the city of Nice. During three days of celebrations, the city is visited by approximately 350,000 people. The party lasts for three days and has different types of parades. One of them takes place even at night. Mardi Gras is celebrated with revelry in the city of Dunkerque, the place of the famous battle. There is a major drum, beating which accompanies the celebrations. Yet the biggest celebrations are held in Nice. It lasts for three weeks. Those types of parades attract lots of independent street artists.
Alpine Venice and the celebrations of the Carnaval
A special, non-Frenchlike carnival, is celebrated in the city of Annecy. It is even called Carnaval Venitien [diakr]. People wear masks and costumes just like the inhabitants of Italy do during the famous festival everyone knows of. And why should a French city imitate Italian modes of celebration? With picturesque canals in the city centre and colourful tenement houses, the city of Annecy looks similar to the Italian Venice. The French took advantage of it.
Mardi Gras celebrations in other parts of the world
The feast is being celebrated in other parts of the world as well. In the USA, Great Britain and Australia, it is called Pancake Tuesday, while in Poland it is celebrated not on Tuesday, but Thursday and that day is also called "fat". The origins and principles of the celebrations are much the same everywhere, yet not everywhere people organize parades with dancing. In Poland for example people limit themselves to eating doughnuts.
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