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Mardi Gras, which means Fat Tuesday in French, is largely associated with New Orleans in the United States, although it originally began in the U.S. in the city of Mobile, Ala. The annual celebration that predates the Lent season is held globally, however, keeping true to its European roots.

As recorded by the Library of Congress, Mardi Gras began in 1703 at 27 Mile Bluff in Mobile by way of French colonizers who brought the tradition of “Shrove Tuesday” or “Fat Tuesday” to American shores. The indulgence in rich foods and wines was often done before the 40-day fasting season of Lenten.

In 1830, a drunken Dutchman named Michael Kraftt took to the streets with other revelers and organized a parade, thus creating the first “krewe” Cowbellion de Rakin Society, the first parading Mystic Society. This tradition of parading with cowbells and garden tools occurred annually.

In 1856, six businessmen, three of which hailed from Mobile, established a secret society inspired by Kraftt’s Mobile krewe called the Mistick Krewe of Comu and planned New Orleans’ first Mardi Gras parade.

For about a decade, the celebrations were halted due to the Civil War but  reconvened in 1866. Joseph Stillwell Cain and his men added costumes and other flair to their parade in Mobile. In 1867, the oldest continuous Mardi Gras parade society, the Order of Myths, was created.

In 1872, the celebration began naming a royal court, a tradition that continues today. In 1875, the state of Alabama declared Mardi Gras a holiday in Mobile and in 1938, the Colored Carnival Association was founded and the first Black Krewe, the Knights of May Zulu. In the ‘70s, the CCA was renamed the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association (MAGMA).

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