HAND BOOK OF MARDI GRAS

The Carnival, properly speaking, begins with the first of the new year, and the festivities commencing with the congratulations and friendly wishes appropriate to that time, increase in fervor until they end in the wild whirl of the grotesque and merry parades and shows of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) so-called in France, the "favorite child of the church" because it is followed by Ash-Wednesday, ushering in the solemn season of Lent.

In the Catholic church the day is known as; Shrove-Tuesday, or Shrove Tide (Aug. Sax. Scrifan- to confess) because "in the good old times" of the church, her faithful children were wont on that day to make their shrift, confess their sins, and prepare to enter upon the season of fasting and prayer with proper spirit. After confession they were accustomed to spend the remainder of the day in amusements, all kinds of which were tolerated by the church, provided of course, these were within the bounds of reason.


In olden times, in merry England, after making their confession, the people commenced their festivities with a dinner, of which pancakes or fritters formed an important part, and hence the day was vulgarly known as Pan-Cake Tuesday, and the bells rang on that day as Pan-Cake Bells.

The Carnival is of heathen origin, and was generally accompanied by great excesses. To celebrate the end of winter on the near approach of spring, among the pagans, national feasts were held in honor of certain gods.

Among the Greeks and Romans, and the Southern nations, Bacchus, the god of the grape or wine, was honored, hence the Bacchanalia - Pan or Lupercus - the god of herds and flocks - hence the Lupercalia. At these festivals men and women, becoming intoxicated in honor of the god, dressed in grotesque manner, many crowned with wreaths, ran about committing all kinds of excesses, accompanied by others playing on different musical instruments, and singing the wildest of songs.

History

  • These festivities having taken root in the hearts of the people, were continued in a modified form, even after the establishment of Christianity among them, and although not celebrated in honor of heathen gods, they have descended to our day, and are enjoyed with so much zest, that they are looked forward to for months.

  • By the Germans the day is called Fast-Nacht, (fast eve) and among them was celebrated the feasts of Spurcalia, held in February, in which month the old pagan Germans offered sacrifices to the sun, whom they worshipped as a deity, because he commences to ascend higher in the heavens. The peasants, not having much work to do in the fields at this time, were very much attached to the amusements it brought them.

  • The ancient pagan Germans celebrated a feast in January, which was called "Irias" (the exact meaning of which is not now known) or "Pagans Cursus," when old and young men and women disguised themselves in all kinds ot fantastic costumes. On these occasions the greatest hilarity prevailed, and the feast is even now observed in some parts of Germany.

  • In our city settled as it was by emigrants from the Southern States of Europe, where these festivals were observed with the greatest enthusiasm, it is natural that they should have been continued; although comparatively unknown in some Northern cities of the Union. The great number of those who belong to the Catholic and Episcopalian churches, in both of which the season of Lent is observed with much solemnity, tends to the development of the festivities, of a time, which precedes one of abstinence and austerity.

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HAND BOOK OF MARDI GRAS

ITS ANCIENT AND MODERN OBSERVANCE;
"With Annals of the Reign of His Majesty" - Carnival 1874, Kain & Co., Booksellers & Stationers, No. 130 Canal Street, John W. Madden, Publisher & Printer, 73 Camp Street, New Orleans, 1874.

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