7 Fat Tuesday Facts That Give You an Excuse to Party

king cakeIt's that time of year again! Revelers have taken to the streets in New Orleans to ring in Mardi Gras 2012. Today, on Fat Tuesday (aka Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday), the celebration will culminate with big fun. Literally -- if ever there was a day to be a total glutton, this is it.

Still, not every American is lucky enough to be adorned in beads, wacky makeup, and/or a wild wig, partying on Bourbon Street today, but that doesn't mean we can't at least appreciate the holiday. Here, seven facts about the history of Fat Tuesday ... which might help you celebrate, even in some small -- but completely delicious -- way.

  1. It's the storm before the calm. In countries all over the world, Fat Tuesday is the "last hurrah" -- aka a great excuse to stuff your face with carbs and rich foods! -- before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40-day observation of and fasting associated with Lent.
  2. Overshores, it's all about pancakes. In the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, they call it Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday, as their tradition involves eating pancakes specifically. Nom.
  3. In the UK, you can get a workout in while eating your pancakes! Across the pond, pancake races are held in villages and towns. As legend goes, back in 1444, a housewife from the town of Olney was so busy making pancakes for pre-Lenten that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the Shriving service. She ran out of the house to the church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake. Cute!
  4. Mardi Gras isn't just one day or one week. While here in the States, we tend to only hear about the celebration in New Orleans for a few days out of the year, Fat Tuesday is the final culmination of an entire Carnival season, which lasts six weeks! It kicks off on January 6 on a day called "Epiphany," which is 12 days after Christmas and celebrates the Wise Men who brought gifts to Jesus. 
  5. You can enjoy King Cake for six weeks! The traditional wreath-shaped, purple, green, and gold-colored cake (see above) is eaten throughout the Carnival season -- not just on Fat Tuesday. (Talk about a recipe for weight gain!)
  6. New Orleans' Mardi Gras is about as old as the U.S. itself. French settlers who ended up in the Louisiana area held pre-Lenten masquerade balls as early as the late 1700s.
  7. Louisiana has made the holiday official. While Fat Tuesday is celebrated in various states, LA is the only one to make it a legal holiday. Partaaayyy!

Do you plan to celebrate Fat Tuesday today -- if only by chowing down on a carbo-liicous goodie?


Image via Linda Marie/Flickr

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