Coming to New Orleans for the greatest free show on earth? Here are a few things you might want to know before your Mardi Gras visit:
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the culmination of Carnival, the season that runs from the Epiphany on January 6 and was licensed by the Catholic Church as a period of feasting leading up to Lent, which begins the day after Mardi Gras on Ash Wednesday. The church is responsible for the fluctuating date of Mardi Gras as well, as it is tied to Easter (and the Lenten season).
Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans date all the way back to 1857 when the first ever New Orleans krewe (the societies, sometimes secret, who present themed parades and balls during Mardi Gras), the Mistick Krese of Comus. Since 1857 only 13 Mardi Gras celebrations have been cancelled, primarily because of wars including the Civil and Korean wars, as well as World Wars I and II. Despite New Orleans' fame for Mardi Gras, the city actually has no involvement in the activities leading up to the big day other than to issue parade permits to the various krewes and their parades. Each organization is completely autonomous and organizes their parade independent of any other institution–even sponsors! It is actually against the law in New Orleans for Mardi Gras parades to be corporately sponsored; all krewes and other carnival clubs are not-for-profit organizations.
Be sure to keep an eye out for throws at the parades; the items tossed from floats during the parade include beads, cups, doubloons, and other special goodies. Many of these are collectable items, so be sure to grab some! Even though the floats are throwing things at the crowd, be sure not to throw anything back–it is dangerous, stupid, and against the law.
Mardi Gras may be a lot of fun, but it can also be a little overwhelming. If you need a day out of the city, be sure to call us for one of our relaxing plantation or swamp tours; we'll be operating while the city is partying so give us a call at 1-888-223-2093.