Fat Tuesday,” happens next week! No this isn’t a fat joke. Mardi Gras is french for Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras is a vibrant celebration deeply rooted in both religious tradition and cultural festivity. Its origins can be traced back to ancient pagan rituals honoring the arrival of spring. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, these pagan festivities merged with the Christian calendar, becoming linked to the period of Lent leading up to Easter.
The modern iteration of Mardi Gras found its foothold in Medieval Europe, and evolved into a period of excess and revelry before the solemnity of Lent, during which Christians traditionally fast and abstain from certain luxuries. The celebration was brought to the Americas by French explorers landing in what is now Louisiana, where it took on its own unique identity within the diverse cultural landscape of the region.
New Orleans, Louisiana, is the epicenter of Mardi Gras in the United States, hosting one of the largest and most famous celebrations worldwide. Parades, elaborate costumes, music, and masquerade balls are all integral parts of the festivities, showcasing the rich heritage of the city.
This year, Mardi Gras falls on February 13th, marking the culmination of weeks of anticipation and preparation. It’s a time for communities to come together in joyous celebration, embracing life’s pleasures before the solemn season of Lent begins.
A few years ago, my friend and fellow photographer Erik Miller introduced me to ‘King Cake,’ a traditional Mardi Gras treat. He brought the cake to a celebration held in Florida for attendees of a photography convention.
Historically speaking, the cake’s name is derived from the biblical story of the Epiphany, where the three wise men, or kings, visited the infant Jesus, symbolizing the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles. Traditionally, a bean or figurine representing the Christ child would be hidden inside the cake, and whoever found it would be deemed “king” or “queen” for the day. The cake is now routinely associated with the Mardi Gras celebration.
I have to say initially, I found the little baby doll baked a bit creepy, but the colorful icing and decoration on the cake stuck with me and left an impression.
When I found these beautiful backdrops I was reminded of the cake, and decided to use them in a session for our model program. With a little extreme makeup and some ‘steam-punk-ish’ accessories, I’m sure you’ll agree these ladies are Queen for the Day!
Happy Mardi Gras!