In response to Tai-Won Kim's inquiry about Mardi Gras, as an Alabamian I must
point out that the celebration in New Orleans was originated by French
settlers about 25 years after the similar one in Mobile, c.1730 and 1705
respectively. Both are, of course, similar to Carnivale in Rio de Janiero,
which is perhaps better known worldwide as the last festive fling before the
Christian penitential season of Lent, which begins today.
I, too, thought there might be some connection with Early English drama.
Part of the Mardi Gras season in this part of the South is a series of
formal balls that include "tableaux," masque-like entertainments put on by
the members of the secret societies who sponsor the balls. Society members
wear costumes and masks, playing usually silent parts in a show narrated by a
professional person from the community--a local television newsman or a
well-known speaker. According to Stephen Orgel, however (in an e-mail
inquiry in 1992), these events are descended from French traditions unrelated
to the English masques. Further back, there might be a broader relation with
religious drama, but I don't know whether there is a French equivalent to
mystery or morality plays.
University of Alabama