Carnival is derived from the Latin carni, which means flesh, and vale, which means farewell. During the time following carnival, people gave up eating meat for forty days. The celebration of a carnival before Lent began in Rome in the middle of the second century. Before the Fast of the 40 Days began, a feast lasting several days was held in which revelers…well, they partied.
Before being celebrated in America, Mardi Gras was a holiday celebrated in Christian European countries. Mardi Gras originated as one of the carnival days between Epiphany (the 12th day after Christmas) and Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is the last opportunity for festivities and indulgence in food and drink before the fasting of Lent.
The following sites and references were used when creating this page:
"Mardi Gras." Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia. 1996 ed.
McSpadden, J. Walker. The Book of Holidays. Thomas Y. Crowell Company:New York, 1935. 331-332.