Tourism and Tours

New Orleans Mardi Gras | A Festival of Exuberance

New Orleans Mardi Gras

All the festivals celebrated in America, there’s nothing more colourful and thrilling than a Mardi Gras festival, which is marked by a lot of parades and events, all over the city. The New Orleans Mardi Gras is an event that is organised by the social clubs in the city, and people dress up in colourful costumes and parade around the city, and giant floats are driven all over the city as well. Festival-goers throw colourful party cups and other light objects in the air to celebrate the festival, and the dress code for this festival consists of the colours gold, purple and green which signify power, justice and faith. This is considered to be one of the best festivals in the US.

Additional Info: The festival is celebrated till Ash Wednesday
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Festival Dates 2022: 6th Jan – 1st Mar 2022
Famous For: Variety of parades and festivities

Mardi Gras is about music, parades, picnics, floats and excitement. It’s one big holiday in New Orleans! Revelers know to wear costumes or at least dress in purple, green, and gold, and adorn themselves with long beads caught from the floats of previous parades.

Traditional colors

A flag in the traditional colors, as specified in the Rex organization’s original edict and in compliance with the rule of tincture.

The colors traditionally associated with Mardi Gras in New Orleans are purple, green, and gold. The colors were first specified in proclamations by the Rex organization during the lead-up to their inaugural parade in 1872, suggesting that balconies be draped in banners of these colors. It is unknown why these specific colors were chosen; some accounts suggest that they were initially selected solely on their aesthetic appeal, as opposed to any true symbolism.

Following a color-themed Rex parade in 1892, the Rex organization retroactively declared that the three colors in that order symbolized justice, power, and faith. Errol Laborde, author of Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization, presented a theory that the colors were based on heraldry: all three colors correspond to a heraldic tincture, and Rex’s goal may have been to create a tricolor to represent their “kingdom”. Purple was widely associated with royalty, while white was already heavily used on other national flags, and was thus avoided. Furthermore, he noted that a flag in green, gold and purple in that order complies with the rule of tincture, which states that metals (gold or silver) can only be placed on or next to other colors, and that colors cannot be placed on or next to other colors. The traditional colors are commonly addressed as purple, green, and gold, in that order—even though this order technically violates the rule of tincture.

House floats

In 2021 due to the cancellation of parades due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice of decorating homes in the style of parade floats emerged as an alternative, dubbed “home floats” or “house floats”. The concept was popularized immediately after the announcement that in-person parades would be prohibited, stemming from a post on Twitter by Megan Boudreaux. She later established a formal “Krewe of House Floats”, with participants being listed in an interactive map on its website so local residents can tour them.  The revised celebration was nicknamed “Yardi Gras” by residents. Even the dog parade, held by the Mystic Krewe of Mardi Paws in Covington, opted to make “dog house floats’ in 2021.

Exposure by women

A topless woman at a coffee house, Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans, 2009

Women exposing their breasts during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, US, has been documented since 1889, when the Times-Democrat decried the “degree of immodesty exhibited by nearly all female masqueraders seen on the streets.” The practice was mostly limited to tourists in the upper Bourbon Street area. In the crowded streets of the French Quarter, generally avoided by locals on Mardi Gras Day, flashers on balconies cause crowds to form on the streets.

In the last decades of the 20th century, the rise in producing commercial videotapes catering to voyeurs helped encourage a tradition of women baring their breasts in exchange for beads and trinkets. Social scientists studying “ritual disrobement” found, at Mardi Gras 1991, 1,200 instances of body-baring in exchange for beads or other favors.

Social clubs

New Orleans Social clubs play a very large part in the Mardi Gras celebration as hosts of many of the parades on or around Mardi Gras. The two main Mardi Gras parades, Zulu and Rex, are both social club parades. Zulu is a mostly African-American club and Rex is mostly Caucasian. Social clubs host Mardi Gras balls, starting in late January. At these social balls, the queen of the parade (usually a young woman between the ages of 18 and 21, not married and in high school or college) and the king (an older male member of the club) present themselves and their court of maids (young women aged 16 to 21), and different divisions of younger children with small roles in the ball and parade, such as a theme-beformal neighborhood Carnival club ball at local bar room.

After their exclusion from Rex, in 1909 Black Creole and other African American New Orleanians, led by a mutual aid group known as “The Tramps”, adorned William Storey with a tin can crown and banana stalk scepter and named him King Zulu.[9][50] This display was meant as a mockery of Rex’s overstated pageantry but in time, Zulu became a grand parade in its own right. By 1949, as an indication of Zulu’s increase in prestige, the krewe named New Orleans’ native son Louis Armstrong as its king.[5]

Being a member of the court requires much preparation, usually months ahead. Women and girls must have dress fittings as early as the May before the parade, as the season of social balls allows little time between each parade. These balls are generally by invitation only. Balls are held at a variety of venues in the city, large and small, depending on the size and budget of the organization. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the French Opera House was a leading venue for New Orleans balls. From the mid 20th century until Hurricane Katrina the Municipal Auditorim was the city’s most famous site for Carnival balls. In more recent years, most are at the ballrooms of various hotels throughout the city. The largest “Super Krewes” use larger venues; Bacchus the Morial Convention Center and Endymion the Superdome.

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