Mardi Gras translates from the French as “fat Tuesday”. The holiday has roots in the Christian liturgical calendar. It marks the end of Carnival season and the beginning of Lent.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans, LA (NOLA) is our country’s most celebrated location for Fat Tuesday. NOLA traditions include parades, carnival masks, beads, and sweet indulgent “King Cakes”.
About Carnival, Mardi Gras, and Lent
Carnival season begins on the Epiphany or January 6, the day the Magi followed a bright star to Bethlehem, where they visited the newly born Christ child. Like many holidays, Carnival is celebrated with traditional foods and plenty of revelry.
Mardi Gras is celebrated several weeks later on the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season leading up to Easter Sunday. It is one last day of overindulgence before the long stretch of Lenten denial begins. It some cultures, Fat Tuesday is known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day.
Traditional foods for Carnival and Mardi Gras include cakes, doughnuts, and pancakes, containing eggs and butter. Rich foods and ingredients are forbidden during the austerity of Lent.
The colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold, representing (respectively) justice, faith, and power. Everything from cakes to masks and beads will bear these colors.
In Christian tradition, Lent is a time for fasting, self-denial, repentance, and alms-giving. The period that lasts for 40 days, until the Saturday one week before Easter Sunday–the day of Jesus resurrection from the dead in 30 A.D.
Not all Christian churches observe Lent. The customs is observed by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox churches, and some protestant denominations, including Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Anglican. It is not observed by Baptists, Evangelicals, and Latter Day Saints.
However, there are many protestant denominations worldwide and liturgical practices vary from one to another, and within denominations from one country or culture to another.
2021 Mardi Gras Carnival Dates
- Epiphany: Wednesday, January 6, 2021
- Fat Tuesday: February 16, 2021
- Ash Wednesday: February 17, 2021
- Easter: Sunday, April 4, 2021
Mardi Gras in Hawai’i
Like many aspects of life in Hawai’i, we put some Aloha into our celebrations. Here are a few ideas for Mardi Gras with island flair.
Roast pig. In New Orleans, some groups begin carnival by roasting a pig. Sam Choy’s oven-roasted kalua pig recipe is an easy, delicious, and affordable alternative to firing up an imu.
Coconuts. Handing out Coconuts during Mardi Gras parades has been a tradition in past decades in New Orleans. Today, long plastic beaded necklaces in traditional colors of purple, green and gold have replaced most other trinkets. However, kids (and adults) might enjoy painting coconuts with Mardi Gras designs. How about these fleur-de-lis coloring pages or an array of surfboards in Mardi Gras colors? Use the painted coconuts as seasonal décor around your home. Or, leave them secretly on your neighbors’ doorsteps!
Donuts. It is customary to indulge in malasadas (“donuts without holes”), also known as Portuguese donuts for Mardi Gras in Hawai’i. (I’m not sure how eating malasadas this makes it different from most other days of the year. But I digress…). Here are some popular locations around the islands for malasadas:
- Hawai’i: Tex Drive In, 45-690 Pakalana Street, Hwy. 19, Honokaa, HI 96727
- Hawai’i: Punalu’u Bake Shop and Visitor Center, 95-5642 Mamalahoa Hwy, Na‘alehu, HI 96772
- Kauaʻi Bakery, 2600 Kaumualiʻi Hwy, Lihue, HI 96766
- Maui: Komoda Bakery in the T. Komoda Store, 3674 Baldwin Ave, Makawao, HI 96768
- Maui: Donut Dynamite, 1246 Lower Main St, Wailuku, HI 96793
- Oʻahu: Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery, 3632 Wai’alae Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
- Oʻahu: Leonard’s Bakery, 933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
- Oʻahu: Kamehameha Bakery, 1284 Kalani St Unit D106, Honolulu, HI 96817
- Oʻahu: Leonard’s Bakery Malasada Mobile (multiple locations)
Mardi Gras events from our calendar
As always, we focus on free and cheap events.
(If nothing is listed below, all events have passed for this year. Since Mardi Gras is 47 days before Easter Sunday and Easter can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25, we usually begin updating Fat Tuesday events in January or February for the current year. )