What Mardi Gras In France Looks Like

It’s almost March, and Mardi Gras — one of France’s famous holidays —approaches. With a name meaning “Fat Tuesday,” Mardi Gras was originally a day to stuff your face with butter and sugar before the Catholic fasting season of Lent began.

Now, the holiday has taken on a life of its own. In Dunkirk for example, the streets become filled with song (and singing along is practically mandatory), and every visible inch of skin is painted in bright colors or cloaked by fabrics and feathers in wild colors. The customary greeting is a big smooch on the lips known as a zotch, and herrings are thrown from the town hall balcony to gleeful paraders ready to catch them. In a tradition known as chapelle, the doors of homes and garages (and just about anywhere) are thrown open as makeshift party spaces.

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The best part? In Dunkirk (and other places in France), Mardi Gras isn’t just a day or a week, it’s an entire three months of celebration. So there’s still time to plan a trip before the herring blizzard ends.