15 Feb The Story of How Mardi Gras Came to Be and What it is Now!
Mardi Gras has been a part of New Orleans since the city was first founded. The Carnival Season features numerous parades and opportunities for locals and visitors alike to eat, drink, and be merry. This season culminates in Fat Tuesday, an all-day celebration where the city lets loose before the beginning of the Lenten season.
Mardi Gras traditions can be traced back all the way to medieval Europe, then called “Boeuf Gras” or “fatted calf”. The new French settlers brought their carnival celebration traditions all the way from France to the New World. New Orleans was established in 1718, and by the 1730s, Mardi Gras was being celebrated in New Orleans. Back then, Mardi Gras was not celebrated with parades, but elegant and exclusive society balls. Sound familiar?
By the 1830s, street processions of people in masks with carriages and horseback riders were held in New Orleans. In 1856, the first Krewe was established. The Krewe of Comus brought magic and mystery with astounding floats and masked balls. Members remained anonymous.
In 1870, the first account of Mardi Gras “throws” was recorded by the second established Krewe, the Twelfth Night Revelers.
In 1872, a King of the Carnival was invented to preside over the daytime parade. The Mardi Gras colors were also established at this time: purple for justice, gold for power, and green for faith. The year after, floats began to be constructed entirely in New Orleans instead of France.
In 1875, Governor Warmoth signed the “Mardi Gras Act,” making Fat Tuesday a legal holiday in Louisiana, and we couldn’t be prouder that it still remains as such!
Today, the crowds that turn up to Mardi Gras in New Orleans are absolutely insane. In 2015, 31,000 riders participated in the Endymion parade and a crowd of 15 to 20 people deep lined up all along Canal trying to get those coveted beads. It’s not uncommon for people to bring large bags to lug thousands (yes, THOUSANDS) of beads and trinkets home from the parades.
Mardi Gras balls are still prevalent in New Orleans culture today. They are exclusive and invite only, and many of them require a mask to be worn. If you ever have a chance to go to a Mardi Gras ball – go! You will feel like an exclusive member of society (and most of them are open bar).
Today, kings and queens are still selected to preside over their krewe’s parade. Most kings and queens are chosen from within the krewe’s own ranks, but some krewes such as Bacchus and Endymion, invite celebrity guests to ride in the parades as their monarch.