March 4, 2014 — -- intro: It's not called "Fat Tuesday" for nothing.
Millions of people will be celebrating Mardi Gras today and, in turn, eating foods inspired from around the globe.
Traditionally, Mardi Gras -- a direct translation from French meaning "Fat Tuesday" -- refers to the last night practicing Christians can binge on greasy, fatty foods in preparation for Lent and the six weeks of fasting that culminate with Easter.
In addition to well-known carnivals, Mardi Gras are also known for doughy, sugary treats that many countries prepare in celebration.
Here's a line-up of different ethnic foods and giveaways traditionally prepared for today's festive holiday:
quicklist: 1title: King Cake: A Taste of New Orleanstext: New Orleans is said to be the king of king cake.
The cake, resembling an oversized donut, is decorated in the traditional colors of Mardi Gras —- purple (to represent justice), green (faith) and gold (power) -— and usually features a plastic baby baked into it symbolizing the baby Jesus.
Whoever finds the baby is responsible for bringing the cake to next year's gathering.
New Orleans is the only state where Mardi Gras is an official holiday, marked by the fact Louisiana is home to the first-ever American Mardi Gras, according to historians. Seventeenth century French explorers who landed in the southern state are known to have held a small celebration on March 3, 1699 and dubbed the spot "Point du Mardi Gras."
quicklist: 2title: Paczki The Polish Pancaketext: Paczki are Polish-style doughnuts traditionally served just before, and on, this day.
Paczki -- pronounced poonch-key or punch-key -- are typically richer and slightly larger versions of jelly or cream donuts.
The tradition in Poland is that people made them to use up all the oils, and maybe the sugar and fruit fillings, before the start of Lent.
quicklist: 3title: Semla Served in Swedentext: Semla is traditional sweet roll with roots in Swedena and across Scandonavia.
The name semla (plural, semlor) comes from a German word which was the name used for the finest quality wheat flour or semolina.
quicklist: 4title: Fasnachts: A Fried German Treattext: Fastnachts are fried donuts traditionally served on Mardi Gras.
The word "Fastnacht" is German for "fast night" and is pronounced differently across more local regions in northern Europe like Fasnacht, Fassenacht, Fasnet, Fauschnaut, etc
quicklist: 5title: Fun Frittelle Found in Italytext: Frittelle are round, yeast-risen doughnuts often served on Carnival, an Italian holiday adapted to Mardi Gras traditions that is big in Venice.
Frittelle are served in a number of different forms, including Fritelle Veneziane, which are unfilled and have pine nuts and raisins stirred into the dough; as well as several filled varieties
quicklist: 6title: Krispy Kreme and IHOP Hand Out Free Snackstext: In honor of the holiday, Krispy Kreme and IHOP will be giving out free food today.
The Krispy Kreme branch in Philadelphia will be giving out free donuts for each customer.
From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., all IHOP restaurants in the US will offer a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes. Customers will be asked to make a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.