Mardi Gras 2011 wouldn't be complete without enjoying warm beignets.
Partying has begun today in major cities to mark Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, a last gastronomical hurrah before the Christian fasts that start on Ash Wednesday and continue during the season of Lent. The festivities that precede Fat Tuesday are known as Carnival in Catholic European nations, Latin America, and Canada. They are known as Shrovetide in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and Mardi Gras in the US and Australia. The Mardi Gras season starts on twelfth night (January 5) and ends on Fat Tuesday, but the festivities and parade season usually last for only the few days nearest Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday 2011 falls on March 8, but the day falls on a different date every year depending on when Easter falls. This year Fat Tuesday is being celebrated later than any other Fat Tuesday in over 150 years. The festivities include rich, fatty foods, masks and elaborate costumes, balls, and large scale parades at which participants throw small gifts. In the early days of the Mardi Gras parades, participants would throw candy or nuts. The "throws" have since evolved to include whistles, trinkets, cups, fake money (called doubloons), beaded necklaces, oranges, and even coconuts.
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