History and traditions of Mardi Gras in New Orleans
The history and traditions of New Orleans' Mardi Gras are rich, colorful and as full of flavor as one can imagine. Mardi Gras is French and means Fat Tuesday. It is the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Many cultures around the world hold a festival or Carnival in the days preceding Lent, culminating in the biggest celebrations on Mardi Gras.
The biggest Mardi Gras party in the United States is held in New Orleans, Louisiana. Held annually, Mardi Gras brings hundreds of thousands of people to the city of New Orleans during this celebration to, simply put, eat and party. The main event of the day is the Mardi Gras parade. There are several parades, in fact, each organized and put on by a Krewe along their traditional parade route. Parade watchers compete to catch strands of colorful plastic Mardi Gras beads thrown from the parade floats.
The first Mardi Gras was observed on March 3, 1699 when a group of Frenchmen settled on the Mississippi River on the spot that is now New Orleans. Pierre Le Moyne named the spot La Pointe du Mardy Gras, from which Mardi Gras was born. In 1833, Frenchman Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville raised money to fund an official Mardi Gras celebration. A few years later in 1857, the oldest active organization of the festivals today, the Mistick Krewe of Comus organization, held their first parade. Today, commemorating the spot set by Le Moyne, thousands of tourists and natives alike fill the streets wearing masks and ornate costumes. For a short time, inappropriate behavior brought a suspension to Mardi Gras, but festivities were restored and Mardi Gras is now certified by the state of Louisiana as an official state holiday.
Just as Mardi Gras brings to the streets of New Orleans the spirit of festival with good food and festivities, so too the spirit of Mardi Gras has been kept alive over the years, even after the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina, which brought so much destruction to New Orleans that the future of Mardi Gras was questioned. Full of history and tradition, however, celebrators refused to let Mardi Gras die and in 2005, the show went on. Although festivities were not as grand scale as before Katrina, tourists, vacationers and die-hard residents showed their support and colors by putting on an amazing Mardi Gras celebration.
If you've never been to Mardi Gras, you owe it to yourself to make your reservations and surround yourself with the wonder, ambience and full flavored Creole-style cooking that makes Mardi Gras in New Orleans a one-of-a-kind celebration!