French culture: Mardi Gras

French culture: Mardi Gras

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Added by February 17, 2015


Learn about French culture with this video on Mardi Gras


Gosh, this week is an eventful week. There seems to be something to celebrate every day! Today, it is Mardi Gras, which I’m sure you know of since some of its biggest celebrations take place in the US, in New Orleans, LA NOUVELLE ORLÉANS, of course.

The Origins of Mardi Gras in France

But what is MARDI GRAS and how do we celebrate it in France? It is originally a Christian tradition, UNE TRADITION CHRÉTIENNE, that takes place exactly 47 days before Easter, and always on a Tuesday. The direct translation of MARDI GRAS is fat Tuesday. It was basically the day people would empty their cupboards LES GENS VIDAIENT LEURS PLACARDS and eat all the meat, LA VIANDE, the eggs LES OEUFS, and sugar LE SUCRE, that they might have left. This way they could fill up with energy and get ready to start a 40-day fasting period that was to be much less exciting, obviously. I don’t know how they did it.

To fast – JEÛNER

An the fasting period is called LE CARÊME, Lent in English.

FAIRE LE CARÊME = to fast for Lent (or for other religious purposes).

Mardi Gras today, a French cultural tradition

Today, MARDI GRAS is associated with Carnival, LE CARNAVAL, and with crepes – yes, we eat some more crepes that day – and with LES BEIGNETS DE CARNAVAL also called LES BUGNES.

UN BEIGNET is a kind of donut. Very fattening and tasty of course.

As for Carnival itself, the word CARNAVAL comes from the latin Carne Levare, that literally means to take off the meat. Again, MARDI GRAS was the last day people could eat meat so they stuffed their faces and stomachs as much as possible. Only normal… And of course they went out to have fun and celebrate before entering some quieter times…

Today the celebrations are still going in various cities around France: in Dunkerque, Nantes or Nice for example. I actually remember dressing up every year for Carnival in the little village where I grew up in the South of France, but I have a feeling the tradition is not so widely spread today. Maybe it’s just a feeling.

Well, that’s it for today’s little cultural point. I’ll see you guys tomorrow. We’ll zoom in on one specific carnival, LE CARNAVAL DE NICE. À DEMAIN!

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