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A woman celebrates Mardi Gras with a sparkly dress, a feather boa and confetti

When is Mardi Gras 2024? 9 facts about Mardi Gras

While Shrove Tuesday is more popular in the UK, Mardis Gras is celebrated all around the world as people feast on luxurious foods in preparation for Lent


Food in abundance, loud music, raucous laughter, and general merriment: Mardi Gras is an iconic celebration filled to the brim with vibrant sound and vivid colour, but you might be surprised to learn that its origins were far more reserved in nature.

From the iconic Mardi Gras costumes, parades, and infamous partying to the festival’s ancient origins - here are nine interesting facts about Mardi Gras that you might not have known.

1. What is Mardi Gras and why is it celebrated?

Mardi Gras is a vibrant spring festival celebrated across the globe. Synonymous with partying, revelry, and abundance, you might be shocked to learn that the raucous spectacle finds its official beginnings as a Christian celebration to mark the end of the pre-Lenten season.

2. What is the purpose of Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras was originally a day of feasting in preparation for the start of Lent. Much like Shrove Tuesday in the UK, Mardi Gras was a day of excess and luxury dedicated to using up stores of rich foods like milk, cheese, butter, and eggs before the fasting period of Lent.

3. Why is it called Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is French for ‘Fat Tuesday’, which might sound like a bit of a ludicrous name, but it’s actually a lot more fitting than you might think. Before the start of Lent, those practising the season of fasting want to prepare by feasting on as many rich foods as possible in preparation for the long 40 days ahead. Fat Tuesday describes how those celebrating will fill up on as many rich meat and sweet dishes (often eating to excess) before they deny themselves those same luxuries until Easter.

4. When is Mardi Gras 2024?

Mardi Gras falls exactly 47 days before Easter and is always on a Tuesday. As Easter changes each year, so too does Mardi Gras. This year, Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday, 13th February 2024.

5. When did Mardi Gras start?

There isn’t an exact date for the first Mardi Gras because the truth is we don’t know when or how it started. It’s generally believed that Mardi Gras evolved from ancient pagan spring rituals like Lupercalia and Saturnalia and was incorporated into Easter celebrations by the Christian church, which was incorporating local traditions to help ease the spread of Christianity across Europe.

6. How old is Mardi Gras?

While we don’t know exactly when Mardi Gras was invented, we do know that in its current form, it has been celebrated for well over 1,000 years. The reality is spring rituals like Mardi Gras have existed for as long as human civilisation has. After all, who wants to pass up an opportunity to celebrate the return of warmer weather and eat some delicious food?

7. Where is Mardi Gras celebrated?

While Mardi Gras might have originated in France, it is celebrated across the world and has become synonymous with the popular Carnival celebrations in Venice, Rio de Janeiro, and New Orleans.

8. Is Mardi Gras the same thing as Carnival?

Yes...sort of. Mardi Gras technically only refers to Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent, whilst Carnival starts on the Christian holiday of Epiphany (also known to some as the Twelfth Night), which falls on 6th January each year.

9. What happens at Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras celebrations will change depending on where in the world they happen. This can vary greatly from what foods are eaten nationwide down to niche local traditions that might only be celebrated in individual towns. While there is no one singular way to celebrate Mardi Gras, the general consensus is that everyone should have lots of fun and merriment and enjoy their favourite luxurious foods.

Other pre-Lenten celebrations like Mardi Gras from around the world include…

  • Shrove Tuesday is more popularly known across Great Britain and Ireland as Pancake Day.
  • Carnival is celebrated across the world but is most popularly known in Italy, Brazil, and Belgium. Unlike Mardi Gras, it is a week-long celebration with feasting and festivities.
  • Fastelavn is celebrated across Scandinavia with Semla, a sweet roll filled with cream and dusted with sugar.
  • In Iceland, Spenggidagur (more commonly known as Bursting Day) is celebrated with a salted lamb and bean stew. Those celebrating are encouraged to eat until they feel ready to burst.