You see people disguised in colorful costumes while Venetian style masks hide their true identity.  Like scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, medieval jesters parade around town.  There are also an array of picturesque floats that seem to come from an imaginary land.  You may think that you are dreaming but what you see is real.  You are attending the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration.

Mardi Gras is the French term for “Fat Tuesday,” an event in which people enjoy themselves and feast just before Ash Wednesday.  The day before Ash Wednesday is also called, “Shrove Tuesday.”  Christians recognize Ash Wednesday as the beginning of the Lent season, which is a time of sacrifice, fasting, prayer and meditation.

Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, two brothers and French explorers, brought the tradition of Mardi gras to North America.  In the late 17th century, King Louis XIV sent the Moyne brothers to defend France’s claim on the region of Louisiane, which included Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and a section of eastern Texas.

Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne founded Mobile, Alabama in 1702, which became the first capital of French Louisiana.  In 1703, French settlers in Mobile arranged the first New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration.  In 1723, the capital of Louisiana moved to New Orleans.  The first parade to mark the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration took place in 1830.  In 1875, the state of Louisiana made Mardi gras an official holiday.

Every year the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration brings in plenty of tourism worldwide.  There are crowds of 500,000 who come to see the famous parade and some even dress in costumes to participate in all of the excitement.

When you attend the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration, you do not have to leave your dog at home.  In Baton Rogue, Louisiana, there is a dog parade called, “Krewe of Mutts.”  You can dress your beloved pet and walk the parade route.

Besides the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration, another place where you can have fun with your dog is in Missouri at the “Krewe of Barkus.”  This is a pet parade where you can dress up your pet and march in the parade.  There are also Weiner dog races.

Other states that celebrate Mardi gras are the following:  Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin.

In Orlando, Florida, The Universal Studios Florida theme park holds a yearly Mardi gras celebration that begins in February and lasts till April.  There are concerts where famous artists perform and other forms of live entertainment for the entire family.

In Wisconsin, the Mardi gras celebration that has been held since 1991, not only entertains the public but also helps others.  The festivities support tuition assistance within the Coulee Catholic School System.  They also help the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the YMCA.

Not only does the United States celebrate Mardi gras, this holiday is also celebrated in many nations.  Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic and France all celebrate Mardi Gras as well as many other countries.

In Belgium, the Mardi Gras celebration, in the city of Binche, has earned worldwide distinction.  In 2003, the Carnival of Binche was declared one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.  Like in Belgium, the Mardi gras celebration in the Czech Republic in Stare Hamry, where there is a door-to-door procession, was added to the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

In France, the Nice Carnival that has been celebrated since 1294, on the French Riviera draws over a million visitors.  Catering to the rich and famous, the French Riviera is a top tourist spot in France all year long.

In Brazil, Mardi Gras is referred to as, “Carnival,” and it is the most popular Brazilian holiday.  The Rio Carnival accounts for 70 percent of Brazil’s tourism.  There is a wide variety of music and dance at the festivities that includes the samba.

Beginning as a tradition that the French brought to America, the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration is an American custom that meshes many cultures together.  Undoubtedly, it is one of the most multicultural celebrations in the United States.