NEW YORK -- Some say the origin of Mardi Gras goes back to a pagan
celebration of the coming of spring and its renewal of life, with
the Greeks and Romans eventually turning it into an excuse for
Many cities claim to be the home of America's first Mardi Gras;
one such place is Biloxi, Miss. On March 3, 1699, Pierre Le Moyne
d'Iberville and his party of French explorers camped for the night
near a small bayou in the swampy wilderness at the mouth of the
Wet and tired, they remembered that back home it was Mardi Gras
Day, so, feeling homesick, they opened a bottle of wine, toasted
the king and named the site Bayou de Mardi Gras. That site became
Visitors can get a glimpse of memorabilia from past celebrations
at the city's Mardi Gras Museum, located on the first floor of the
Magnolia Hotel. The hotel was built in 1847. The museum is an
ever-changing exhibit hall keeping up with each year's celebrations
of the occasion.
Elsewhere in the Americas, there is Mardi Gras in Trinidad, or
Carnival, which begins immediately after Christmas with parties and
daily practice sessions in the "panyards," where visitors can watch
steel bands preparing for music competitions.
This display of costume, dance and music attracts thousands of
locals and tourists every year.
The two-day party immediately preceding the beginning of Lent,
features steelpan, soca and calypso music, and extravagantly
costumed groups parade down the streets of Port of Spain and in
Queen's Park Savannah.
During the costumed extravaganza in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, many
colorful parades, lavish balls and spontaneous street celebrations
reflect the nation's richly intertwined African, European and
Native American heritages.
The centerpiece attractions are the official samba school
parades, in which thousands of singers, dancers and musicians
perform each night.