Glossary of Mardi Gras Terms
Jan 25 2019

Glossary of Mardi Gras Terms

By: Taylor Schoen

If you are new to Mardi Gras, you'll need to know the lingo. Here is a list of common carnival terms:

Ball: a Mardi Gras ball is a special event parades host prior to rolling. They are similar to galas and often feature presentations of the royal court, dancing and costumes.

Bacchus: is a parade that rolls the Sunday before Mardi Gras. It’s named after the Greek god of wine, often featuring grape related throws. It’s considered a super krewe due to its size and celebrity guests.

Boeuf Gras: means “fat ox” in French. It’s an ancient tradition of fattening a cow or ox for the town to eat before abstaining from meat during Lent.

Carnival: is a Latin word that translates to “a farewell to meat.” Carnival refers to the Mardi Gras season as a whole, beginning on King’s Day and ending on Ash Wednesday.

Glossary of Mardi Gras Terms

Doubloon: is a common Mardi Gras throw. They are large coins, usually made out of aluminum and painted flashy colors.

Endymion: is a major parade or super krewe that takes place on Samedi Gras. The parade features a celebrity grand marshal, exuberant floats and lots of throws. It’s named after a character from Greek mythology, cited as a shepherd, hunter or king.

Epiphany: is a Christian feast day on January 6. The holiday celebrates the three wise men’s visit to the baby Jesus. This is considered the official beginning to Carnival season and when king cakes become widely available in the city.

Glossary of Mardi Gras Terms

Flambeaux: comes from the French word for “flame.” Before the days of electricity, slaves or free men of color would carry these large torches in parades to provide light and warmth. The tradition continues today despite the omnipresence of lights.

King Cake: is a festive cake made of Danish dough, cinnamon, glaze topping, colorful sprinkles, complete with a plastic baby figurine. The baby is meant to represent Jesus and commemorates the Christian holiday Epiphany.

Krewe: is the group of people who ride in, create, fund and execute parades. The first use of the term is believed to be by the Mistick Krewe of Comus in the beginning of the 19th century.

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler: is a Cajun French saying that means “let the good times roll.” It’s become a mantra of Mardi Gras throughout the years.

Lundi Gras: is yet another French term that means “Fat Monday.” It’s the day before Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). The name didn’t achieve popularity until the late 1980s. It originally celebrated the arrival of the king of Rex by boat, kicking off Mardi Gras.

Glossary of Mardi Gras Terms

Mardi Gras Indians: refers to African Americans who dress in Native American regalia such as headdresses and elaborate suits, adorned with feathers and beads. These secretive tribes march in parades, but never announce when beforehand. Allegedly, the practice is meant to pay tribute to the Native Americans who helped out slaves who fled to New Orleans.

Masquerade: is a medieval tradition that incorporates masks, dancing and royalty. Masquerade balls have become commonplace during Carnival and masks have become synonymous to Mardi Gras.

Moon Pie: is a dessert sandwich made of chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows. They became a common throw during the 1950s.

Neutral Ground:  is the median that separates roads, usually planted with grass. Parade goers often distinguish where they will stand between the neutral ground side and the sidewalk side.

Rex: is one of the most renowned parades. It’s held on Mardi Gras day and has rolled more than any other parade in New Orleans’ history. Rex is a Latin word that translates to “king.”

Royal Court: refers to honored members of a krewe. This usually includes a king, queen, grand marshals, dukes, maids and more.  Court members are often presented during the parade’s ball in an elaborate fashion. These are coveted positions, and there are often years-long waiting lists to become a king or queen.

Super Krewe: is a large-scale parade that features modern technology like fiber optic lights and animatronics, celebrity guests and lavish throws. The official super krewe parades are Endymion, Bacchus and Orpheus.

Throws: are the materials riders throw to parade watchers. Beads, cups, doubloons, boas, stuffed animals, food and toys are common throws.

Glossary of Mardi Gras Terms

Zulu: also known as Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club is a well-known, historically African American Mardi Gras day parade. Its origins can be traced back to the early 1900s when it was a benevolent aid society. Its signature throws are hand-decorated coconuts.

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