It’s not just the costume creativity that’s on display during Mardi Gras, everywhere you turn, New Orleanians are proud to show why our city is like no other.
Mardi Gras gets a misunderstood reputation as a celebration of debauchery for those not from the state of Louisiana, but a little history seems to clear up any confusion. It’s roots are in fact religious — what we currently celebrate as Mardi Gras is a Catholic celebration marking the last day before the Lent. The Carnival celebrations begin on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany and culminate the day before Ash Wednesday in accordance to the Gregorian Calendar.
It was Mardi Gras day, 1699 when Iberville first set up camp near what would become La Nouvelle Orléans, he called the site Pointe du Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, translating from French for “Fat Tuesday” reflects the practice of indulging yourself in a feast of rich foods before the Catholic fasting ritual of Lent. The day following – Ash Wednesday – is always kind of quiet and reverent.
The popular and famous destination festival has long been welcomed, enjoyed and appreciated by millions of tourists and locals alike is accompanied by parades, music, costumes, and masquerade balls. We trace our customs to medieval Europe, where the festivities leading to the Epiphany were presided over by an impromptu king, known as “the Lord of Misrule”. Small tokens were distributed, to suggest the gifts of the three kings. These tokens and trinkets bestowed upon then public were the predecessors to our current carnival “throws”. Literally thrown from Floats into the crowd, Krewe members toss buckets of beads, plastic krewe cups, and Doubloons – as well as the sought after Krewe of Muses shoes and collectible Zulu hand-painted coconuts.
We mark 1837 as the first historically documented procession of masked revelers and by the 1840’s they decided the parades just weren’t enough. The newly formed Krewe of Comus yearned for something more, forming a secret society in keeping with their Masonic origins and started a legacy of Mardi Gras Balls as the most looked forward events of the year in society.
From January 6th forward, parades and celebrations build a crescendo of excitement leading up to our four-day carnival weekend, when at last we reach a climax on Mardi Gras Day. We’re always worth visiting, but once a year you can rely on the city’s rich history to become a magnet for the magic and the extraordinary. You can’t help but exclaim in pleasure, “Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler”