Mardi Gras or fat Tuesday is a boisterous celebration held annually on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the season of Lent begins in the Western Christian liturgical calendar. The actual date varies from year to year since it depends on the date of Easter.
Mardi Gras is the culmination of a long carnival season which begins on January 6, the Twelfth Night of Christmas. The custom was brought to the United States by the French who had paraded a fat ox through Paris. The honor of the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States belongs to Mobile, Alabama which first observed the holiday in 1703. However, the city most associated with Mardi Gras is New Orleans, Louisiana.
Secret societies known as krewes arrange and finance the activities. The oldest krewe is Comus, which made its first appearance in 1857. However, since a 1992 New Orleans city ordinance which required the societies to open up their membership if they wanted to hold a parade, Comus has cancelled its parades in protest. The Krewe of Rex first appeared in 1872 and is synonymous with Mardi Gras. A different krewe holds a parade on each night during the two weeks leading up to Lent. The krewes also hold masked balls at which the king and queen of the krewe are presented to the society.