Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday") is the day
before Ash Wednesday, and is also called "Shrove Tuesday"
or Carnival ("car-nee-VAHL" elsewhere but in New
Orleans "CAR-na-val"). It is a celebration that
is held just before the beginning of the Christian liturgical
season of Lent.
New Orleans Mardi Gras
New Orleans Mardi Gras is particularly well-known. The New
Orleans Carnival season starts on Twelfth Night (which is
the religious Feast of the Epiphany), January 6. The season
of balls (some of them in costume) and King Cake parties begin
on that date, as well smaller parades.
From about two weeks
before Mardi Gras Day on, there is at least one good sized
parade every day, which tend to get larger and more elaborate
as Mardi Gras Day approaches.
In the final week of Carnival
numerous events large and small occur throughout New Orleans
and surrounding communities.
Many young tourists center their
visits on a small portion of upper Bourbon Street and the
French Quarter. The Mardi Gras celebrations include parades
organized by Carnival Krewes.
Krewe float riders toss throws
to the crowds; the most common throws are strings of cheap
colorful beads, dubloons (aluminium discs usually impressed
with the Krewe logo), decorated plastic throw cups, and small
To New Orleanians, Mardi Gras refers only
to the final and most elaborate day of the Carnival Season;
out of town visitors tend to refer to the entire Carnival
as "Mardi Gras". Some locals have thus started to
refer to the final day of Carnival as Mardi Gras Day (technically
redundant) to avoid confusion.
Mardi Gras was brought to Louisiana by early French settlers.
The first record of the holiday being marked in Louisiana
The starting date of festivities in New Orleans is
unknown, but an account from 1743 notes that the custom of
Carnival balls was already established by that date. Processions
and masking in the streets on Mardi Gras Day took place, were
sometimes prohibited by law, and were quickly renewed whenever
such restrictions were lifted or little enforced.
On Mardi Gras of 1857 the Mystick Krewe of Comus held its
first parade. This was neither (as has sometimes been mistakenly
asserted) the beginning New Orleans Mardi Gras nor the first
New Orleans Mardi Gras parade, but it did usher in a new era
of more organized Carnival festivities. It started a number
of continuing traditions, and is considered the first Carnival
Krewe in the modern sense.
See More> Mardi
Gras Krewes - Rex and Zulu | Mardis Gras Parade Schedule
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