With February comes Mardi Gras, New Orleans’s uninhibited carnival of colours, revelry and sexual expression.
Mardi Gras, traditionally, marks the last period of celebration before the Lenten season begins, and Easter approaches. The pride and joy of New Orleans, this cultural parade is a great whirlwind of social cultivation and hedonism. The Sherp brings to you some fundamentals you may want to well-verse yourself with if you decide to head to this incredible festival.
Mardi Gras literally translates to “Fat Tuesday.”
Mardi Gras initially began as a traditional celebration, without the debauchery it sees today. When traced right to its historical roots, Mardi Gras was all about splendid parades, balls and floats. Mardi Gras, which is French for “fat Tuesday” has now developed into a famous tourist destination, littering many bucket lists around the world. This has helped the economy of New Orleans garner some revenue after the devastation of hurricane Katrina, as it gathers thousands of revellers every year. While Fat Tuesday is the primary highlight of the festival, the entire week or two around it is alight with celebration.
You’ll need to know what krewes are.
The first krewe was a secret society founded in 1856, and formalized the Mardi Gras parade. This was the Mystick Krewe of Comus. The roots of Mardi Gras can be traced back to Pagan times, so such names aren’t uncommon amongst the krewes. These secret societies now organize parades and balls all over the United States, including the ones at Mardi Gras. They are the backbone of today’s Mardi Gras festival, putting this New Orleans parade on the map as one of the biggest carnivals in the world, featuring the most massive and intricately designed floats seen in the United States.
Beer, beads and boobs.
The sheer level of nudity debauchery could give the likes of Burning Man and Kazantip a run for their money.Whether you like it or not, this festival comes with an inlfux of nudity and brazenness that has a certain charm of its own. The city chooses to stay out of the “adult” aspect of this festival, and in no way does it define Mardi Gas, but it does exist. Since the 70’s, it’s been a sort of tradition for women at Mardi Gras to flash their breasts in exchange of beads, which are all the rage at the festival. Mardi Gras “throws”, which include beaded necklaces, krewe-imprinted coins, little toys or other curiosities, are well-known among the community. Amidst all the culture and tradition, resides an aspect of Mardi Gras that’s all about drinking away the worries, losing yourself in the celebration, sexual expression via overt-nudity, and the like. If this doesn’t float your boat, we suggest you don’t linger by at Bourbon Street for too long.
This festival has developed a lot since its inception, and will grow some more, we reckon. Either way, it’s one of America’s oldest traditional festivals, and one you definitely do not want to miss out on. Mardi Gras Day is one February 9, we suggest you visit New Orleans a couple of days in advance to soak in the entire experience.
(Images Courtesy: Joel Carillet)