Mardi Gras, Louisiana’s signature event
Mark Twain wrote that 'an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans.' His words still hold true.
No city in the country throws a better party than New Orleans, and no party in the world tops Mardi Gras. Every year, hundreds of thousands of revelers gather in New Orleans to indulge in a massive celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday, which, in the Catholic faith, marks the beginning of Lent.
Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) began long ago as a European tradition that encouraged frolicking and excess in advance of the Lenten season of sacrifice. The Mardi Gras “season” – also known as Carnival – begins officially on Twelfth Night, the final day of Christmas in some branches of Christianity.
In New Orleans, Carnival encompasses many lighthearted rituals, including costuming, parading, dancing and sharing of trinkets. Carnival organizations known as “krewes” have thousands of members who put on massive, colorful parades with extravagant floats that roll through the city’s streets on the days and nights leading up to Fat Tuesday. The parades, costumes, masks, spirit and unbridled fun of Mardi Gras create a mystique that intrigues and delights.
This huge annual celebration presents an opportunity for both locals and visitors to be whoever they want to be, with anonymity, for at least a day. The resulting fun and frivolity are what have made Mardi Gras the signature celebration of New Orleans for centuries. But Carnival is not exclusive to New Orleans. Communities throughout Louisiana stage their own Mardi Gras celebrations, complete with parades, costuming and a host of activities. Increasingly, Fat Tuesday celebrations – including that of New Orleans – have taken on a greater family orientation, offering more activities and opportunities for children, parents and grandparents to enjoy the festivities together. Mardi Gras 2012 is February 21. Keep an eye on LouisianaTravel.com for more details.