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Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras in the United States

Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the fasting period of Lent (for Western Christians), 47 days before Easter Sunday. Shrove Tuesday is also called Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or Pancake Day.

Is Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras a Public Holiday?

Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras 2023 is a state holiday in 4 states and an observance, christian in 47 states.

Feathered masks and colorful beads represent carnival parades in Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas.

© iStockphoto.com/fstop123

What Is Shrove Tuesday?

Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the fasting period of Lent in Western Christian churches. On Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday, people in many countries celebrate Carnival, bake pancakes, and prepare themselves for 40 days of fasting before the most important festival in the Christian Church: Easter.

What Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French. It was the last day to use fat and fatty foods before the time of Lent when Christians would fast. Today, the word Mardi Gras mainly refers to Mardi Gras parades or Carnival parades in former French-speaking territories like Alabama and Louisiana. For many people, Mardi Gras means colorful parades, dancing, glittering costumes, and extravagant balls.

Mardi Gras Traditions

To celebrate Mardi Gras, people dress up in eye-catching costumes – featuring the colors purple, green, and gold – and dance in the streets or as part of a spectacular ball. Debutantes are introduced at the Ball Tableau as a formal introduction to society.

People throw trinkets like plastic jewelry and sweets to crowds as part of the customary “parade throw” at New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebration. During the Bacchus parade, the king's float throws doubloons with the image of the “Celebrity King” to parade watchers.

A rare item you can catch from a Mardi Gras parade is the New Orleans Zulu or Golden Coconut, a painted coconut with added glitter, either in gold or painted like Zulu faces. Officially, throwing these coconuts has been forbidden since 1988 – but you might still catch one.

Mardi Gras Parades

On Mardi Gras, many people in the United States take part in parades and festivities, mainly in southern states like Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. Mardi Gras parades feature feathered masques, colorful costumes, and marching bands, as well as many local customs.

In Alabama, Mardi Gras is mainly celebrated in the counties of Mobile and Baldwin, where parades can start as early as January and traditionally feature marching bands along side colorful floats.

In Galveston, Texas, people celebrate Mardi Gras with masked balls, a royal coronation, Cajun dances, and jazz performances.

The most famous Mardi Gras parade in the US is probably held in New Orleans, with thousands of people flocking into the city just for the event. There are many old traditions as part of the Mardi Gras festivities, such as the King of the Carnival and Monarch of Merriment, as well as Comus, the God of Revelry.

Mardi Gras Food

Traditional Mardi Gras food includes the super sweet King Cake covered in colorful frosting. The person who gets the piece of the cake containing the hidden baby charm or little Jesus figurine is dubbed the “King” of that year’s Mardi Gras.

Crawfish Étoufée, a thick stew served with white rice, is another traditional Cajun and Creole dish served in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.


History of Mardi Gras in the US

Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States go back as early as 1703, when French soldiers held festivities in Mobile, Alabama. Back then it was more of a pre-Lent celebration akin to festivities on Shrove Tuesday in modern-day France.

Mardi Gras became a parade event in 1857, when the Cowbellion de Rakin Society, the first of Mobile's organizations that journeyed to New Orleans, set up a Mardi Gras celebration with the first carnival society, the Mistick Krewe of Comus.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, parades and large gatherings were canceled. In order to keep the spirit alive, many New Orleans residents decorated their houses and front yards in spectacular fashion, earning the 2021 festivities the nickname “Yardi Gras”.

About Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras in Other Countries

Read more about Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras.

Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2017TueFeb 28Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasObservance, Christian 
2017TueFeb 28Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasState HolidayAL*, FL*, LA, MS*
2018TueFeb 13Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasState HolidayAL*, FL*, LA, MS*
2018TueFeb 13Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasObservance, Christian 
2019TueMar 5Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasState HolidayAL*, FL*, LA, MS*
2019TueMar 5Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasObservance, Christian 
2020TueFeb 25Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasState HolidayAL*, FL*, LA, MS*
2020TueFeb 25Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasObservance, Christian 
2021TueFeb 16Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasState HolidayAL*, FL*, LA, MS*
2021TueFeb 16Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasObservance, Christian 
2022TueMar 1Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasState HolidayAL*, FL*, LA, MS*
2022TueMar 1Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasObservance, Christian 
2023TueFeb 21Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasObservance, Christian 
2023TueFeb 21Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasState HolidayAL*, FL*, LA, MS*
2024TueFeb 13Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasState HolidayAL*, FL*, LA, MS*
2024TueFeb 13Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasObservance, Christian 
2025TueMar 4Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasObservance, Christian 
2025TueMar 4Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasState HolidayAL*, FL*, LA, MS*
2026TueFeb 17Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasState HolidayAL*, FL*, LA, MS*
2026TueFeb 17Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasObservance, Christian 
2027TueFeb 9Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasState HolidayAL*, FL*, LA, MS*
2027TueFeb 9Shrove Tuesday/Mardi GrasObservance, Christian 
* Only some parts of Alabama observe this holiday. Observed in some communities of Florida and Mississippi only.

While we diligently research and update our holiday dates, some of the information in the table above may be preliminary. If you find an error, please let us know.