Mardi Gras marks the last hurrah before Ash Wednesday begins a traditional time of prayer and fasting in the Catholic faith, leading up to the observance of Easter Sunday. The first Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S. were held by French-Catholics in New Orleans in the early 1700s. While the fasts may be more extensive as believers give up certain foods or practices during Lent to prepare for Easter, generally Fridays are observed by fasting meat. According to the Louisiana State Museum the word Carnival comes from the Latin "Carnelevare" which means to leave off meat. In medieval Europe the Church required that Christians forego meat during much of Lent. This ancient tradition carries down to the modern day. Seafood is generally substituted for meats, and you will notice special Lenten menu items at many restaurants during this early spring season. Fortunately for our visitors, this substitution is not much of a sacrifice. See our dining section for a list of restaurants specializing in seafood and other types of cuisine.