WHEN: Two Weeks Before the Start of Lent (February-March)
Mardi Gras is a giant costume party with masks, floats, parades and marching bands. Two of the most famous take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Preparations for Mardi Gras in New Orleans start early in January. People make elaborate costumes to wear and party organizers plan decorated floats for the parades. In the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, small parades often march through neighborhoods. The most spectacular parades take place on the day before Lent. In New Orleans, huge crowds turn out to watch until, on the stroke of midnight, Mardi Gras ends.
In both New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, elaborate floats wind their way down city streets.
So what's the party for? It's a last hurrah before Lent, a time when Christians give up rich foods and meats to get ready for Easter. Because Lent lasts 40 days, people want to have a good time before giving up a favorite food. So for two week they sing, dance, and eat.