Mardi Gras: it’s the party of all parties, right? Depending on where you are enjoying Mardi Gras -- most popular typically being Mardi Gras New Orleans --, this festival can span up to two weeks! There are fancy upscale balls, colorful parades and many variations on this holiday, which is celebrated in different ways all across the globe.
There are a lot of popular films and TV shows that celebrate Mardi Gras, making Mardi Gras music licensing a hot topic in the entertainment world, especially during this time of year. In fact, in 2018, the official day for Mardi Gras is Tuesday, February 13th -- which is right around the corner!
From the 1958 film Mardi Gras to the 2011 Mardi Gras: Spring Break, this history-rich holiday has long been shown as simply one big party. Now, while it is very much about parades, colorful characters, lively music and celebration, there is definitely a lot to learn about the holiday itself. Are you ready to learn more about Mardi Gras history? Good! Because we are ready to take you on a journey!
Mardi Gras Meaning
You may think you know what Mardi Gras is all about -- beads and booze anyone? But there is so much more to this lively period of celebration. First of all, the date of this festival varies greatly. It always happens on a Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday to be more specific, but it can be any time from early February to early March, as it is majorly dependent on when Ash Wednesday and Easter fall.
The origins of Mardi Gras can actually be traced way back to medieval Europe, dating as far back as the 17th & 18th centuries. Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville named a plot of land that was 60 miles south of New Orleans “Pointe du Mardi Gras.” This was when the famous French festival first made an appearance in the U.S. and claimed its main home in New Orleans. Strangely enough, New Orleans itself was not established until almost 20 years later in 1718! The first actual New Orleans-based Mardi Gras carnival was not held until many years later in 1781.
By 1873, Fat Tuesday became a legal holiday in Louisiana, and it still remains one to this day. Locals and visitors from around the globe now flock to New Orleans to enjoy Mardi Gras music, Mardi Gras beads, Mardi Gras costumes, Mardi Gras parades and a plethora of unique Mardi Gras activities.
Mardi Gras Music
Mardi Gras music history has traditionally been marked by the use of brass bands. This includes instruments like trumpets, saxophones, trombones, sousaphones and percussion. An interesting thing about brass bands in New Orleans, is that they were typically known to be used for funerals. In New Orleans, it is common practice to view funerals as celebrations of life, rather than associate them with darkness and mourning. Therefore, funerals were like celebratory festivals, making brass bands perfect for providing the soundtrack.
Although, it is necessary to mention that the brass bands used for funerals would not necessarily be as lively during a funeral as they would be during a Mardi Gras parade. The typical way that a New Orleans brass band accompanies a funeral is to start the procession with mournful music, but to switch to lively music after the service has concluded. This allows a sad situation to be transformed into a party and celebration of life. Brass bands are uniquely tailored to be able to switch the tone of these different situations. This makes them perfect for creating Mardi Gras music as well.
The TunEdge music licensing library offers several options for Mardi Gras. We’ve compiled them into two handy montages to make it easier for you to choose the right tracks for your television, film, radio or other media project. You can find those tracks here in our Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Montage, or also in this additional Mardi Gras Montage. If you have any questions, or think you have found the right song for your production, contact us and we’ll help you license the best Mardi Gras music.
Mardi Gras Music on YouTube
If you are looking for free Mardi Gras music to use in your Mardi Gras production, then you can scour YouTube and hope to find quality free music licensing. However, it’s unlikely that you will.
Also, in the long run, you may find some Mardi Gras music on YouTube that appears to be free -- however, once you distribute your production, you may come to find that there are actual legal issues with that music and it will get pulled from your television or film project. This only leads to more issues, because finding quality Mardi Gras music licensing at the last minute will likely cost a fortune.
So, if you are looking for Mardi Gras music on YouTube, check out the TunEdge Mardi Gras music channel. Yes, you will have to pay for your music licensing, but it will be far less painful than a poor free music licensing choice in the long run.
Mardi Gras Costumes
Mardi Gras costumes have a very unique history. For example, did you know that it is an actual law that float riders in New Orleans must always wear a Mardi Gras mask? On Fat Tuesday, wearing a mask is also legal for everyone else enjoying Mardi Gras in New Orleans. But can you imagine getting a ticket or even taken to jail because you did not comply with wearing a mask during a party? So interesting!
The colors of costumes are by no means random either. There are three main colors associated with Mardi Gras: green, gold and purple. Green is a symbol of faith, gold is for power and purple means justice.
And the beads that individuals wear, often associated with flashing to earn beads, are much more involved than just that. Beads are part of “throws” and were brought about to give the people on floats the ability to engage with the crowds. And it’s not just about beads. They also have cups, doubloons and stuffed animals as regular “throw” items.
Mardi Gras Traditions
There are many different traditions and concepts surrounding the Mardi Gras festival. Here are a few of the most prominent ones:
Mardi Gras Krewes
Not so much a tradition, but actually a staple, Mardi Gras krewes are often the entire reason that Mardi Gras can continue to function year-after-year. These unique groups are all centered around different themes and each has a rich history. You can view a list of featured krewes related to New Orleans Mardi Gras festivals here.
Mardi Gras Balls
This is a lesser-known tradition when it comes to Mardi Gras events. Most people associate the festival with parades, but the Mardi Gras ball is a main staple as well. These are typically both formal and private. They are held primarily by the different krewes, with the king and queen of each krewe as the highlight. The interesting thing is that the identity of each of these people is a closely-guarded secret.
Each ball is very difficult to get an invitation to, some prominent people in government cannot even get in to some of them. They are mostly black tie affairs with formal dining and dancing. Although it’s unlikely you will get an invitation to one of these incredible events, you can view some select videos from past events here.
This is a huge part of the Mardi Gras festival. It comes from the French term “flambe” which basically means “flame.” The first instance of this tradition was recorded on Fat Tuesday in 1857 by the Mistick Krewe of Comus.
The idea originated with the need to give revelers a better lighted view of the parades. They used both oil lamps and wooden torches. It was also deeply rooted in American history as slaves and free men of color, primarily those of Creole origin originally carried the flambeaux through the streets of New Orleans.
In present day, the flambeaux is carried by krewes on their parade floats as a sign of respect for the rich history behind the tradition.
Mardi Gras 2019 and Beyond
Since we know that Mardi Gras will always be on Fat Tuesday, we already know when Mardi Gras 2019 will take place! Mardi Gras New Orleans is such a huge and important event, that they already have the dates for Mardi Gras listed on their website through the year 2050!
And to show how truly different the date is every year, even though Mardi Gras 2018 will take place on February 13th, Mardi Gras 2019 will take place on March 5th -- quite the difference, right?
So how can they tell when it will occur? Their website explains it very well actually: “Ash Wednesday is always 46 days before Easter, and Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday. Easter can fall on any Sunday from March 23 to April 25, with the exact date to coincide with the first Sunday after the full moon following a spring equinox.”
It may sound complicated, but with a calendar in hand, you’ll be able to figure it out. So, if ever in doubt, just do the math, and you’ll know exactly when Mardi Gras is!