Mardi Gras

  • Feb27
  • 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Mardi Gras in New Orleans

    No matter where you’re from, you’ve probably heard of Mardi Gras. Your hometown might even throw a parade or feature some drink specials at local bars and restaurants. That said, we’re pretty sure its Mardi Gras celebration — and, come to think of it, the entire weeks-long runup to Fat Tuesday — can’t hold a candle to New Orleans Mardi Gras. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Mardi Gras in New Orleans. As if you needed more proof that they do things differently in the Big Easy!

    1. Mardi Gras Season Isn’t Just About Fat Tuesday

    “Mardi Gras” is synonymous with the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, and with good reason: “Fat Tuesday” is the undeniable culmination of pre-Lenten festivities in New Orleans and elsewhere in the Catholic world. But Mardi Gras season actually lasts far longer than a single 24-hour period: Depending on how the church calendar falls, in fact, it can stretch for more than two months between the Epiphany (Jan. 6, or the 12th day of Christmas) and Ash Wednesday, which falls in February or March. So if you want to capture the Mardi Gras spirit while beating the crowds, no worries — just head to New Orleans before Fat Tuesday!

    1. Those Beads Actually Have a Serious Meaning

    Mardi Gras beads are a prominent symbol of the big day, but they also have a serious meaning. Each color represents a different religious theme or tenet: gold for power, green for faith and purple for justice. Originally, recipients of thrown beads would be selected for their suitability: lawyers might get purple beads, local politicians might get gold, and churchmen might get green.

    1. New Orleans Wasn’t the First U.S. Mardi Gras Host

    Shocking but true! The first U.S. city to host a formal Mardi Gras celebration was actually Mobile, Alabama, an historic Gulf Coast town that also benefited from pervasive French and Creole influence during the 18th and 19th centuries. Although Mobile beat New Orleans to the Mardi Gras punch by several years, its celebration was quickly eclipsed by the Big Easy’s.

    1. For Some, Masks Aren’t Optional

    Mardi Gras costumes and masks seem like fun, harmless components of a fun, harmless holiday, right? Yes and no. While regular revelers are free to dress up or down (way down, in some cases!), New Orleans city law has a deadly serious dress code for folks riding on parade floats. In fact, it’s actually illegal not to wear a mask on a parade float — so if you’re riding high this Mardi Gras, don’t forget your getup!

    1. Mardi Gras Has a Storied Culinary Component

    Amid all the revelry and costuming, it can be easy to forget to pause and refuel. But party people need to eat too, especially if they’ve been running around in pursuit of beads and floats all day. Fortunately, Mardi Gras (and Carnival season in general) has a host of unique culinary traditions that satisfy the palette and entertain the eyes. Two of the most notable: beignets and king cake. Both are straightforward cottonseed oil cooking recipes that can easily be made on a conventional stovetop or in a home oven.

    What’s your favorite little-known fact about Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Next time you’re in the Crescent City during Mardi Gras season, don’t forget your notepad (and camera)!