Mardi Gras 2024 is just around the corner, and the carnival season in New Orleans is reaching its peak. As the city gears up for this spectacular celebration, it’s essential to have a comprehensive guide to make the most of the festivities.
From the traditional parades to the vibrant street parties, here’s everything you need to know about Mardi Gras 2024.
What is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is the culmination of the carnival season in New Orleans. Rooted in Christian and Roman Catholic traditions, the season kicks off on January 6th, the 12th day after Christmas, and continues until Mardi Gras, which is the final day of feasting, drinking, and revelry before Ash Wednesday and the fasting associated with Lent.
The carnival season in New Orleans is renowned for its vibrant street parties, fancy balls, and boisterous parades. F
rom neighborhood-based walking clubs to elaborate, high-tech extravaganzas featuring massive floats laden with flashing lights and giant, animated figures, there’s something for everyone during this festive period.
How Do People Celebrate the End?
The big buildup to Mardi Gras happens in New Orleans in the final 12 days of the season, with large parades rolling past mansions on St. Charles Avenue and into the downtown area of office buildings and hotels. Large parades also roll through the suburbs and in various areas across the Gulf Coast.
The atmosphere varies from neighborhood to neighborhood and from street to street. Along the parade routes, the vibe is family-friendly. Groups stake out picnic areas just off the route, and food trucks hawk cotton candy, funnel cakes, and corn dogs. Families can be seen wandering the streets of the historic French Quarter as well.
In New Orleans, “throw” is a noun used to describe prizes that float riders in parades and members of walking krewes give to spectators. The prized throws at “Bosom Buddies” are hand-decorated bras. Participants in the parade of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club hand out highly sought-after painted coconuts.
At Thursday’s Muses parade, glittery hand-decorated shoes were souvenirs. Shimmery strings of plastic beads are ubiquitous, although some krewes are exploring alternatives out of environmental concerns.
King Cake Tradition
A standard seasonal treat during Carnival is the ring-shaped king cake. Baked inside is a tiny, plastic baby figurine. The roots of king cake culture date back to Saturnalia celebrations in ancient Rome, where a cake was baked with a bean inside, and whoever got the slice with the bean was deemed king for a day. Over the centuries, it became part of modern Mardi Gras traditions.
The Big Parades
The final weekend brings the biggest parades, produced by organizations that borrow traditions from European royalty — anointing kings and queens to rule over the proceedings.
The Rex Organization, founded in the 19th century, rolls every Fat Tuesday, with the role of Rex, King of Carnival, filled each year by a different local dignitary. The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, founded by Black laborers in the early 1900s, also rolls on Tuesday.
What is the significance of Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras marks the culmination of the carnival season, rooted in Christian and Roman Catholic traditions, before the fasting associated with Lent.
What are the prized throws at Mardi Gras parades?
The prized throws include hand-decorated bras, painted coconuts, and glittery hand-decorated shoes, among other souvenirs.
What is the history behind the king cake tradition?
The king cake tradition dates back to ancient Rome, where a cake was baked with a bean inside, and whoever found the bean was deemed king for a day.