On February 27, 1827, the people of New Orleans, Louisiana, took to the streets for the first citywide Mardi Gras celebrations. A group of students in masks and costumes paraded through the streets, partying and dancing. Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday in French) is the last day before Lent, a solemn period in the Catholic Church calendar. Mardi Gras is the last day to live in excess before Lent, when giving up rich foods and drinks is common.
 
Since 1827, Mardi Gras in New Orleans has become world-famous. Social clubs called krewes throw large and colorful parties and parades throughout the week. They pass out trinkets like beads and coins called doubloons to the people who come to celebrate. Mardi Gras traditions are heavily influenced by the cultural history of New Orleans—a rich gumbo of Native American, Spanish, French, Cajun, African American, and Caribbean cultures, combined with the economic and cultural influences of the Mississippi River. 
Catholic
Adjective

having to do with the Christian denomination with the Pope as its leader.

culture
Noun

learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

economic
Adjective

having to do with money.

excess
Noun

extra or surplus.

gumbo
Noun

stew made with seafood or meat, thickeners such as flour, and vegetables.

Lent
Noun

season in the Christian religion lasting 40 days before the celebration of Easter.

Mardi Gras
Noun

(Fat Tuesday) celebration the day before the Christian fast of Lent.

parade
Noun

procession of performers and entertainers.

solemn
Adjective

serious or sad.