If you live here, "you already know." But for those from out of town or curious about visiting New Orleans, there are often a multitude of questions and misconceptions regarding Mardi Gras. The biggest party in the nation is bound to have a wide variety of myths and speculations from those who have never attended, so let us show you the real Mardi Gras...as only New Orleans can make it happen.
What Mardi Gras Isn't
- Adults Only: Mardi Gras (and often the whole of New Orleans, by extension) has a reputation that is simply not accurate. People around the country think that getting naked and flashing is the way that Mardi Gras beads are obtained. Nothing could be further from the truth. With the exception of a couple night parades in the French Quarter, Mardi Gras parades are family-friendly events attended by thousands of families with children. Just as in daily life here in the city, if you don't want to see lewdness and nudity, stay off of Bourbon Street at night. Bring the family, the grill, and the Mardi Gras ladders modified for children to see everything, and enjoy our parades like a local!
- One Holiday: Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, for the rest of the country is a single-day holiday. Here in New Orleans, we celebrate the entire Carnival Season, and call it Mardi Gras. Carnival officially starts on January 6th on Epiphany (because it is tied to the calendar of the Catholic church), and ends with a massive bang on Mardi Gras Day (aka Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday).
- A Bourbon Street Celebration: Mardi Gras does not happen on Bourbon Street. Sadly, many people think that Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras are synonymous. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are very few parades down Bourbon, and in fact, most of the parades don't even touch the French Quarter. Sure, Bourbon Street is standing-room-only-packed during Mardi Gras, but you won't find locals there unless they're working or playing tour guide.
- One Giant Parade: There are parades all throughout Carnival Season, and the week before there are parades almost all day and all night every day! Each parade is presented by a Krewe, which are social clubs that have activities and events all year long, not just for Mardi Gras. These krewes do a lot of good locally and internationally through fundraisers and service projects, so it's not just all about the party and parade. Most krewes also hold formal balls and galas, along with social events, concerts, and parties throughout the year.
What Mardi Gras IS
- A BLAST! You will probably smile more during one Mardi Gras parade than you have for months any other time of the year. Bring the family, catch some great throws, and have fun! You don't have to be here for Mardi Gras Day to enjoy Mardi Gras, you can catch parades for the entire month of Carnival.
- A Catholic Holiday: Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday. Traditionally, Fat Tuesday was known as the last day to indulge before Ash Wednesday kicks off Lent. Because of this, it became somewhat of a "party day" and grew from there.
- A Year-Round Endeavor: While we've already touched on krewes and their importance to New Orleans and Mardi Gras culture, there is another element which makes Mardi Gras possible. New Orleans has an entire industry that creates the incredible parade floats and costumes seen during Mardi Gras season. Teams of artists, designers, builders, technicians, and engineers work year-round to make the floats for the dozens of enormous New Orleans parades. No other city throws parades like New Orleans, because no other city CAN! The immense artisan infrastructure that make these parades possible thrives here in New Orleans like nowhere else.
- A Different Parade Every Year: Just because you saw a krewe's parade last year doesn't mean it will be the same this year. Every year the floats are completely re-themed, repainted and decorated, and often completely re-designed. Plus, most krewes add floats from year to year. No two parades are ever alike, thanks to the tireless efforts of hundreds of float-builders and artists. Add to that the many walking, dancing, themed costume krewes and marching bands, and every parade is truly a spectacle.