Mardi Gras History: Behind Mobile’s Favorite Bash

Mardi Gras is a Christian observance and cultural spectacle that has its origins in ancient spring and fertility rituals. Its beginnings can be traced back thousands of years ago. In this post, I’ll go over a brief Mardi Gras history and settle this debate once and for all: who started it? 

Otherwise known as Carnaval, it’s a worldwide celebration held on the day before Lent. Mardi Gras is held in many nations worldwide. Mainly in those with large Roman Catholic populations. 

For example, Venice, Brazil, Alabama, and Louisiana are home to some of the most fun Mardis Gras festivities. Their unique celebrations attract thousands of spectators and participants each year. 

mardi gras history - what state started mardi gras

Who Started Mardi Gras? 

This is the centuries-old question: what state started Mardi Gras? (given that I live in Mobile Alabama I’m slightly biased). But let’s examine its history to get a definitive answer. 

French-Canadian adventurer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived on a tract of land 60 miles southwards of New Orleans on March 2, 1699.

His troops realized it was the eve of the joyful occasion and christened it “Pointe du Mardi Gras.” In 1702, Bienville founded “Fort Louis de la Louisiane,” which is today’s Mobile. The tiny community of Fort Louis de la Mobile hosted the first Mardi Gras in America in 1703.

Mobile founded a secret organization (Masque de la Mobile) in 1704, identical to the present Mardi Gras krewes. It lasted until 1709 when it was abolished. 

The “Boeuf Gras Society” was founded in 1710 and marched from 1711 to 1861. A massive bull’s head was pulled along on wheels by 16 men throughout the parade. 

The King (Rex) would later parade with a real bull, wrapped in white and announcing the upcoming Lenten meat fast. 

Related Reading: History of the Mardi Gras King Cake

Fun Facts About Mardi Gras in Mobile 

1. The celebration’s traditional motif is green, purple, and gold. 

Gold and purple have always been the colors of Mardi Gras in Mobile. Purple has long been associated with European royal dynasties. It is also the liturgical color of Lent in Christianity. 

Many folks in Mobile are now using a third color, green. This could be a nod to New Orleans’ historical purple, green, and gold shades. 

These colors were introduced in 1872 by the Russian House of Romanov. The Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff Alexandrovitch, brother of Russia’s heir apparent, accepted New Orleans’ invitation to attend Mardi Gras. They incorporated ceremonies in his honor and therefore were adopted there.

2. Goodies are thrown to the spectators by each Krewe.

The “throws” that floats are known for are precisely what they sound like: things hurled into the crowd. Coconuts, plush animals, and gold doubloons were among the most popular choices for throws. 

The phrase “give me something sir” is a well-known code for requesting throws. 

Today, beads are often the most expensive items on a masker’s toss list. Another common choice is the Moon Pie. 

Children on the Queen’s float in the Comic Cowboys parade threw the first Moon Pies in 1956. These treats have now become a traditional part of Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebrations.

Cracker Jacks (banned in 1972), confetti, and candy are among the other products that have come and gone during Mobile’s Mardi Gras history. Today’s maskers usually throw little packets of bubble gum, Kisses, and other goodies (we love it when we get a cold ice cream sandwich). 

3. Mobile’s Mardi Gras float design, manufacturing, and decoration is a year-round enterprise.

Many enterprises around the Gulf Coast specialize solely in the construction of floats. In Mobile’s parades, enormous floats are built to contain roughly 15 or 16 adults and their throws. 

The specifications of floats are all regulated by the city to ensure that they can safely navigate the downtown’s tight streets and sharp curves.

These floats are usually multilevel, with one or two mezzanine stations and a lower and upper level. The “captain” of the float usually rides on the higher level to observe everyone below. 

4. Several parades precede Mardi Gras Day.

Joe Cain Day is observed on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday. After the Civil War, he revived Mardi Gras by conducting an impromptu parade through the streets of Mobile. 

Mobilians have been doing it ever since. During Mardi Gras, he has a whole day dedicated to him.

A joggers run and the Joe Cain Procession, often known as the people’s march, have also been held in recent years. 

You don’t need to be a member of a mystic society to participate in the procession. However, due to the large number of persons who participated in previous years, attendees must now register with the city.

Related Reading: Mobile Mardi Gras Parade Schedule – Check Them out Here

Final Thoughts 

In Mobile, Mardi Gras is an excellent historical and cultural heritage source. Mobile, in addition to being the first in Mardi Gras, is known for its family-friendly celebrations. It’s a multigenerational experience for the whole family.

More than 1 million people go to Mobile for Mardi Gras every year, anticipating more than 40 parades over multiple routes. So don’t miss out on the merrymaking and experience Mobile’s wholesome take on Mardi Gras!

Disclosure:  this article might contain links to the resources discussed.
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