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Exploring Galveston's Mardi Gras Traditions

Updated: Jun 6





Welcome to Unboxing History, a monthly podcast where we delve into the fascinating stories behind historic treasures. In this episode, we bring you on an exciting journey through time as we explore the unique connection between European royalty and Galveston's Mardi Gras.


Unveiling the Treasure: Ermine and Its Symbolism


Our adventure begins with ermine fur from a little mammal. This fur, once prized by European royalty, played a significant role in their costumes and crowns. Throughout history, ermine symbolized royalty and purity. It was made from the white fur of a little animal called a stoat, sewn together to create a stunning white fur with delicate black spots. Today, although real fur is no longer used, imitation ermine remains a common element in Mardi Gras costumes, including those in our exhibit.



Galveston's Mardi Gras Legacy


Mardi Gras, a festive celebration known worldwide, traces its origins back to about 600 A.D. with Pope Gregory's creation of Lent. As people prepared for the solemn period of fasting and prayer, they decided to have one last night of revelry. Fat Tuesday, or "Mardi Gras" in French, became a grand tradition, filled with parades, parties, and fun costumes.


In Galveston, Mardi Gras holds a special place in the community's heart. It is believed that the tradition began in 1856, when Michel Menard hosted the first Mardi Gras party, establishing Galveston as the birthplace of Mardi Gras in Texas. Over the years, Mardi Gras evolved, experiencing both peaks and lulls in its popularity. However, it persisted in private homes and parties, with one significant event being the Treasure Ball.


The Treasure Ball, A Galveston Institution


The Treasure Ball, a fundraising event for the Catholic school system, captures the essence of Mardi Gras in Galveston. It has become a beloved tradition that spans generations, with families eagerly participating year after year. During Treasure Ball, kings, queens, crown bearers, and flower girls don magnificent costumes, many of which are now a part of our collection. many of these striking garments feature ermine fur, adding an air of regal splendor to the celebrations.


Getting Involved


We encourage you to visit the Galveston County Museum to see the costumes, as they will only be on exhibit through February. We are located inside the courthouse at 722 Moody (21st Street). We offer FREE admission on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 am to 4 pm, and private tours, group tours, and our Padlock Mystery Game can be scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays by calling 409.766.2340 or under the Event tab on this website.


If you have Mardi Gras costumes or items gathering dust under your bed, consider donating them to our collection. We are committed to expanding our treasure trove and preserving the rich heritage of Galveston's Mardi Gras tradition.


Unboxing History, Episode 1, has offered us a glimpse into the world of European royalty, ermine, and the grandeur of Galveston's Mardi Gras. Join us next month as we delve further into the hidden stories of historical treasures featured in our museum collection. 


Note: You can listen to the Unboxing History podcast every month, hosted and presented by the Galveston County Museum. Don't miss the opportunity to learn more about our collection while supporting the museum's continued efforts.


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