Mardi Gras 2023: When is it and why is it celebrated?

Observed in many nations of the world, Mardi Gras marks the beginning of Lent  (Ben Stevens / PinPep)
Observed in many nations of the world, Mardi Gras marks the beginning of Lent (Ben Stevens / PinPep)

Mardi Gras is a famous Christian festival that originated from pagan spring and fertility ceremonies thousands of years ago.

The day before the start of the holy season of Lent, it is observed in many nations around the world, particularly in those with sizable Roman Catholic populations, and is sometimes referred to as Carnival or Carnaval.

Some of the most well-known public celebrations of the event are held in Brazil, Venice, and New Orleans, bringing tens of thousands of tourists and revellers each year.

Why is it called Mardi Gras?

Tuesday is referred to in French as mardi, while gras is French for “fat”. The day before Ash Wednesday became known as Mardi Gras or "Fat Tuesday" in France.

In Britain, the day is also known as Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday.

This is because, in the days before Lent, people would typically gorge on all the rich, fatty foods—meat, eggs, milk, lard, and cheese—that were still in cupboards and refridgerators, in preparation for three weeks of eating only fish and engaging in various forms of fasting or denial.

When is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras 2023 will fall on February 21.

Mardi Gras is celebrated every year and is a movable feast that can occur in either February or March, depending on the date Ash Wednesday falls on.

Why is it celebrated?

Mardi Gras marks the close of the pre-Lenten season.

Also known as Shrove Tuesday, a name that comes from the practice of “shriving”—purifying oneself through confession—prior to Lent. For many Christians, Shrove Tuesday is a time to receive penance and absolution.

In New Orleans, Mardi Gras is celebrated through street processions, with the first one taking place in 1837. The city is most known for its lavish celebrations, which include exotic parades, glittering floats, masked balls, and feasting.