Vacation Ideas: Mardi Gras On Galveston Island

The history of one of the oldest celebrations in the world in Galveston, Texas. Information on making the trip.

The date of Mardi Gras depends on the day in which Easter falls every year. The celebration is slated to take place at the end of a long carnival season that begins January 6th, or "Twelfth Night" and is celebrated in many Roman Catholic communities around the world. The most notable of course is New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro. But Galveston Island has its history of Mardi Gras too, and a deeply rooted one at that.

The first recorded Galveston Mardi Gras was in 1867, and included a masked ball and a theatrical performance based on Shakespeare's "King Henry IV". The first grand scale celebration wasn't until a few years later in 1871 with the mergence of two rival Mardi Gras societies, or "krewes": "The Knights of Momus" and the "Knights of Myth". Both krewes devised night parades, masked balls and striking costumes and elaborate invitations to their balls. The "Knights of Momus", led by some very prominent Galvestonians, decorated horse drawn carriages that were each torch lit for a spectacular night parade.

In the years that proceeded, the parades and celebration balls grew more and more extravagant, and began to attract the attention of the entire south. The 1872 Galveston Island Mardi Gras was declared by one renowned news paper as "eclipsing anything ever attempted on Texas soil!" By 1880 many a famous person, theater stars and politicians were participating in the grand scale event. The street parades suffered a hiatus after the 1800celebrations, proving to be too expensive and elaborate to continue. The private sector continued their celebrations uninterrupted however, with themed parties and masked costumed balls.

In 1910 the carnival parades were again revived and more "krewes" sprang forth. And the party grew annually, in both parades and celebrating crowds until the outbreak of World War II, and the Mardi Gras celebration was confined to a single day, yet totally resumed again the following year.

Today's Mardi Gras on Galveston Island is bigger and better than ever. Now expanding over a two-weekend period with all public events coordinated by the Galveston Park Board in conjunction with the city of Galveston and more than sixteen participating "krewes". The majority of the celebration with-in the entertainment district known as "The Strand". Parades by and day and night, something for every age group. Many company, hotel and private masked balls provide extra evening entertainment in fine tradition. And there are several art exhibits, sporting events, and literally every business on the island participates in some fashion. Many restaurants go along with the theme of the annual event, and staff is dressed in costume accordingly. The strand district houses numerous private quarters atop the historic buildings and crowds strolling the district count on the dwellers bead tossing exchanges. And likened to the famous New Orleans celebration, beads are highly prized at Galveston's Mardi Gras.

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