Celebrating Mardi Gras in France

photo by erasergirl

Although Mardi Gras is more famous as the boisterous and debauched carnival celebrated in New Orleans and other places in the New World, its origins are much tamer, and they can be traced back to…France. Fat Tuesday celebrations were spread all over the world by French colonists, and as the centuries went by they stuck and morphed into something completely different. Visitors to France might be surprised by how different Mardi Gras is in France -it might as well be a completely different holiday! If you are curious about what the French do for Far Tuesday, here is a short description on celebrating Mardi Gras in France. It might not be the colorful party that New Orleans has, but it is definitely enjoyable!

 The holiday

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the name given to the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lent season. As with other more lengthy and noisy carnivals, Mardi Gras is a time to enjoy good food, drinks and merry-making before the somber Lent weeks. Because in the following 40 days people would have to refrain from many of their regular indulgences, Mardi Gras became a day when everyone would spoil themselves and eat fatty, sweet and plain delicious food. Although Mardi Gras in France is quieter than in former French colonies in the Americas, or in New Orleans, it is still much more popular in France than in other European countries.


Bugnes, photo by buari on Flickr

Food is the most important part of the French Mardi Gras, because the 40 days of Lent prescribe a strict diet that doesn’t go well with the French passion for good food. Since eggs are not allowed during Lent, neither are pancakes – crêpes – so Mardi Gras has become  a feast of pancakes as well. Pancakes covered in sugar, cream, jam and other sweet spreads, bugnes (also known as angel wing pastries) and fried dough cakes.


There are lots of traditions related to celebrating Mardi Gras in France, but unfortunately they are not always kept in larger cities. Villages and smaller towns, however, still revel in age old Mardi Gras traditions like donning costumes, feasting and singing, in a manner similar to Halloween. One of the few remaining big city carnivals, the Nice Carnival, is one of the most exciting events of the year in Nice. The parade is colorful and jolly, and flowers are either used to bombard the passing floats, or people use them to stage mock flower fights.

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