Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”) falls the day before Ash Wednesday and is also known as “Shrove Tuesday” or “Pancake Day”.
Mardi Gras marks the end of Carnival celebrations which started 12 days after Christmas on Twelfth Night. Mardi Gras is precisely 46 days before Easter and can fall anytime between 3 February and 9 March.
The date of Mardi Gras 2016 is Tuesday 9 February.
Carnival is the season for festivals and celebrations between Twelfth Night and Lent. It is mainly a Roman Catholic celebration though some other religions celebrate Carnival to a lesser extent.
Inspiration for Carnival comes from the traditional beliefs surrounding Lent. During the period of Lent parties and certain foods are forbidden which inspired the desire for large celebrations and feasting beforehand.
Typical Carnival celebrations include public parades and street parties which encourage people to participate by dressing up or masquerading.
The most well known Mardi Gras celebrations are in New Orleans, Venice and Rio de Janeiro. Carnival is an important celebration in most of Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe, apart from the UK who celebrate Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day instead.