If you are looking for a party which runs 24 hours a day this is the place to be… Mardi Gras is an iconic celebration that is recognized globally for its colourful and flamboyant festivities. It is a carnival event that takes place before the start of Lent, and it is celebrated in various countries and cities across the world. In the United States, New Orleans, Louisiana, is the most renowned location for Mardi Gras, drawing thousands of people to the city to participate in the revelry.
This is one of those things you want to do at least once in your lifetime (warming: it may not be the last if you had too much fun in New Orleans). I did it, it was on my bucket list and I am glad I was fortunate to spend a week there during Mardi Gras. The hotel was very overpriced but that’s understandable given how popular the city is during that time of the year. Yet, I had no regrets, it was so much to see people let go and have a blast. The food was fantastic, the party never stopped and of course, the parades were incredible. While I was there I did a lot of portrait photography of revellers in the streets during the daytime, the nights were dedicated to all kinds of debauchery which I will keep to myself.
The origins of Mardi Gras in New Orleans can be traced back to the early 18th century when the city was under French colonial rule. The term “Mardi Gras” itself is a French expression that means “Fat Tuesday,” and it is a reference to the day before Ash Wednesday when people would traditionally indulge in rich and fatty foods before the Lenten period of fasting and penance. In New Orleans, the celebration of Mardi Gras has evolved into a multi-week extravaganza that culminates on Fat Tuesday, which falls on the day before Ash Wednesday.
The celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a carnival-like event that features elaborate parades, costumes, music, and food. The parades are a major highlight of the festivities, with numerous Krewes (social clubs) organizing and designing their floats and costumes. The Krewes throw beads, cups, and other trinkets to the crowds that line the streets, creating an atmosphere of joy and excitement.
The costumes worn during Mardi Gras are also a significant aspect of the celebrations. It is customary for revellers to dress up in colourful and creative outfits, with many choosing to wear masks to conceal their identity. The tradition of wearing masks during Mardi Gras dates back to the early days of the festival when it was used to break down social barriers and allow people from different classes to mingle and celebrate together.
Another important aspect of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the food. Traditional New Orleans cuisine such as gumbo, jambalaya, and king cake is widely consumed during the festivities. King cake, in particular, is a sweet, pastry-like cake that is decorated with colourful icing and sugar. It is customary to bake a small, plastic baby into the cake, and whoever finds the baby in their slice is said to have good luck for the coming year.
Despite its reputation for wild and debaucherous celebrations, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is also a family-friendly event. Many families attend the parades and celebrations together, and there are designated areas where children can collect beads and trinkets without being caught up in the crowds. Yet, I would advise you to keep the kids at home and enjoy yourself instead. They can do it on their own when they are all grown up for it.
In conclusion, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a unique and vibrant celebration that is deeply rooted in the city’s history and culture. It is a time for people to come together and celebrate, indulge in rich and delicious food, and revel in colourful and flamboyant costumes and parades. The celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is truly an experience that should not be missed.
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PS. There are a lot more photographs from this fabulous city, so if you are interested I put together a little silent photo slideshow below:
Here are 10 little-known facts about New Orleans:
- New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, which emerged in the late 19th century as a mix of African rhythms, European harmonies, and blues music.
- The city is built on a swamp, and many of the oldest buildings in the French Quarter are built on wooden piles driven into the soft ground.
- New Orleans is home to the world’s oldest continuously operating streetcar system, which has been running since 1835.
- The city’s famous Mardi Gras celebration actually began in Mobile, Alabama, but was brought to New Orleans in the early 1700s.
- The first opera in the United States was performed in New Orleans in 1796.
- New Orleans is known for its above-ground cemeteries, which are necessary due to the high water table and the risk of coffins floating away during floods.
- The city has its own dialect of English, known as “Yat,” which is characterized by its distinctive accent, vocabulary, and grammar.
- New Orleans is home to the oldest continuously operating Catholic cathedral in the United States, St. Louis Cathedral, which dates back to 1727.
- The city is named after Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, who served as Regent of France from 1715 to 1723.
- New Orleans is the birthplace of the po’ boy sandwich, which originated during a streetcar strike in 1929 when local restaurant owners offered free sandwiches to the striking workers.