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Mardi Gras In New Orleans - Fat Tuesday Laissez les bon temps rouler

Updated on February 18, 2015

When Is Mardi Gras 2016 in New Orleans?

Mardi Gras in New Orleans falls on Tuesday, February 9th in 2016. Fat Tuesday will be the last day of the Carnival season before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. New Orleans' Mardi Gras is perhaps the most well known celebration in the USA

Check out the official New Orleans Mardi Gras website for more information.

The local hotels start taking bookings in August.

Mardi Gras Flowerpots

I dress like this all the time.
I dress like this all the time. | Source

What Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi gras - in the Anglican tradition, Shrove Tuesday - literally means fat Tuesday. Part of the Christian calendar, it refers to the custom of eating well before Lent's ritual fast begins, on Ash Wednesday. And it's a brilliant excuse for a street party.

Here in the UK we just go a little crazy with the pancakes - but elsewhere, huge Mardi Gras celebrations take place every year in big cities throughout the world, the most well known including Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and New Orleans in the USA. These celebrations include spectacular parades with themed floats, music, and people dancing in masks and
costumes.

What Should You Do At Carnival?

Dress up. Any opportunity to wear ludicrous costume in public should be grabbed with both hands. And enjoy yourself, but stay within the law. While flashing, public drunkenness, and generally rowdy behaviour might seem to be the order of the day - don't do any of them, and especially don't get on the wrong side of the police. At what tends to be a difficult time of year for them, they have a very efficient arrest and booking system in place.

Just to get the rest of the bad news up front and out of the way, remember that New Orleans is a city with a high crime rate and a disadvantaged underclass, whose criminal members might look on tourists as prey rather than welcome guests. Remember too that New Orleans is a place where safe zones and no go areas lie close together. It pays to know which is which, where you are, and who's around you. And also to keep a low profile, and your valuables hidden.

Otherwise - just watch the parades, dance along, and have a good time.

Parade Throws And Mardi Gras Beads

Keep an eye out for stuff being hurled from the floats into the crowds. The Krewe members on the floats throw collectable trinkets and toys into the crowds of spectators, a tradition that began in the 1870s, when the Twelfth Night Revellers threw trinkets into the crowd as their floats passed through.

Today, the Mardi Gras Krewes throw doubloons of anodized aluminium, along with necklaces and stuffed toy animals. Just make sure you don't get your hand stamped on reaching for one, as competition on the ground can be fierce.

Strings of beads are also often thrown from floats. These used to be strings of multi-coloured glass beads made in Czechoslovakia, though they've been replaced by cheaper plastic beads from China. Glass beads have made something of a comeback, though. Made in India now, they are considered one of the more valuable throws.

Lately, Krewes have begun to make plush toys and limited edition beads which are unique to them. Fiber optic beads, LED powered prizes, and other more sophisticated items are now among the trinkets liable to be thrown.

On the Mardi Gras website, the dates from February 4th to 21st are earmarked for parades, and there are maps of the routes available to download.

New Orleans Artists Preparing for Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras World - Where Mardi Gras Is Made

During Mardi Gras, huge colourful floats parade the city's streets. The carnival groups, or Krewes, plan and pay for the floats, but the actual construction is left to artists. Over 80% of the floats that tour New Orleans during Carnival season are designed and built at Mardi Gras World, a family run-business created by Blaine Kern in 1947. You can see Mardi Gras World's website here.

Blaine Kern's grandson, Brian Kern, says a lot has changed over the years.

'The original floats of New Orleans carried 12 riders. Now we do floats with multiple sections that can carry up to 250 people.'

The float building begins in September, but the whole process, beginning with the ideas for the floats, starts much earlier. The art director and the artist meet and decide on the theme for the year and what each float is going to look like.

Mardi Gras World

Stuff of nightmares.
Stuff of nightmares. | Source

Mardi Gras World Tour

The Mardi Gras World artists make the props from Styrofoam or fibreglass, which is covered in papier-mache and painted. They're modelled on real people or characters from films and popular culture, may be over fifteen feet in height, and add a surreal, fairground feel to the passing parade.

Mardi Gras World gives visitors the chance to try on authentic Mardi Gras costumes during a tour of their huge warehouses, which are filled with floats. The tour guide has extensive knowledge of Mardi Gras history and customs, and there's a video shown as part of the tour. And if that's not enough to convince you, they serve king cake and piping hot New Orleans coffee for an authentic taste of Mardi Gras.

During the tour, visitors learn about the traditions surrounding Mardi Gras, along with the intricacies of float design and construction. The Mardi Gras floats that began rolling down New Orleans streets in 1837 behind teams of mules have grown into huge, spectacular mega-floats, holding over 200 masked riders and lit with fiber optic cables and laser lights.

Mardi Gras 1908

Those were the days.
Those were the days. | Source

Mardi Gras History In New Orleans

Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville was a younger brother of explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, and accompanied him on an expedition to establish the colony of Louisiana.

Bienville wrote to inform his superiors in 1717 that he had discovered a place by the Mississippi which was safe from tidal surges and hurricanes, and proposed that the new capital of the colony be built there. Permission being granted, construction began in 1718, and in 1721, Adrian de Pauger drew the plans for what's known today as the French Quarter, or Vieux Carre.

Bienville named the new city La Nouvelle-Orléans, in honor of Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, France's Prince Regent, and it became the capital of French Louisiana in 1723.

By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions to celebrate Mardi Gras, and newspapers began to announce the events in advance. In 1871, the Twelfth Night Revellers were formed.

In 1872, a group of businessmen invented the King of Carnival for the first daytime parade, and in 1875, Louisiana's Governor Warmoth signed the Mardi Gras Act to make it a legal holiday in Louisiana.

Mardi Gras In New Orleans

And that's Mardi Gras in New Orleans. One of the best and biggest street parties in the world, with spectacular parades, eccentric street characters, a hint of danger and a guaranteed good time. If you can - go. It's a holiday trip that should be on everyone's bucket list, and an unforgettable experience. Laissez les bon temps rouler.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez (Let The Good Times Roll) by Maria Rose

Mardi Gras Music And Picture

Mardi Gras In New Orleans
Mardi Gras In New Orleans

Can't stop smiling when its playing.

 

Comments

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  • DemiMonde profile image

    Demi 

    6 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

    Very interesting ,especially about Mardi Gras World. We have our own Mardi Gras in Mobile, so I never get to come over for NOLA's.

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