Mardi Gras in the US is synonymous with the city of New Orleans. It is a festival of beads and booze. It is generally associated with a huge street party and has now become an iconic carnival, celebrated in many countries around the world. In fact, Madri Gras is a crazy celebration before lent, the last day before giving up all sinful pleasures. It always lands on the Tuesday that is 47 days before Easter, and it is always the day before the Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent. In many areas, the term Mardi Gras stands for the whole period of activity related to the celebratory events, beyond just the single day. The Carnival season refers to the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, and officially begins on January 6 every year. The Carnival season lasts more than a month. However, the parties, parades and fun kick into high gear on the Thursday before Mardi Gras. Every year, Madri Gras enchants and intoxicates everybody with ravish costumes, electrifying music events, interesting parade floats, and of course, bead throwing.
Mardi Gras arrived in North America as a French Catholic tradition with the Le Moyne brothers. As per record, the first holiday for Mardi Gras was celebrated in Louisiana at the mouth of the Mississippi River on the 2nd day of March, 1699.
The New Orleans Carnival season is not like the traditional preparation for the start of the Catholic season of Lent. It starts after Twelfth Night, on January 6, and is a season of parades, balls, and king cake parties.
Parades, headed by ‘Kings’ and ‘Queens’ leading a flotilla of garish float, are the central attraction of Mardi Gras. They are organized by private concerns, known as krewes. The super krewes, like Endymion, Bacchus and Orpheus, have the biggest floats with fantastic special effects. They are actually supers in every respect, including their massive throws, which the float riders toss or “throw” to the crowds. The crowds, in turn, become almost crazy and ridiculous for the throws. They usually implore, beg and often the female enthusiasts even dare to bare their breasts to the throwers in lieu of a handful throw.
The most common throws are, doubloons, which are nothing but aluminum or wooden dollar-sized coins usually impressed with the logo of the particular krewe, strings of colorful plastic beads, and small inexpensive toys. Zulu and Rex should be also on everyone’s Mardi Gras bucket list. Major krewes follow the same parade schedule and route each year. During the Carnival, many tourists prefer to stay on Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, but the major Carnival parades have never entered the French Quarter since 1972 because of its narrow streets and overhead obstructions.
Wearing a mask or costume on Mardi Gras Day is highly recommended by Mardi Gras veterans. With mask and/or costume, one becomes part of the party, rather than just watching it. Masquerading makes Mardi Gras a fun affair. The relative anonymity gives people the temporary license to go out of character and do unusual things like shriek, drink, dance with strangers on the neutral ground and get wild.
Mardi Gras officially ends on Tuesday, The culmination of the festival is the wicked mayhem of Mardi Gras Day, when all inhibitions are let loose. It is also known as Fat Tuesday. The next day, Ash Wednesday, is locally known as the Trash Wednesday. It is the first day of Lent, when abstinence prevails, making Fat Tuesday the ultimate excuse for a piss up, a knees up and a throw up.
Every year the event continues to get bigger and bigger, when hundreds of thousands of people flock to New Orleans each February, and generate an estimated $1 billion economic impact.