Photos Show Mardi Gras in a Completely New Light
A local brass band plays music in the streets alongside a massive dragon float. People throw beads, cups and coins to parade-goers below. Everyone is decked out in head-to-toe costumes full of color and glitter. And you’ve never seen so many masks and feathers in your life. This is Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Mardi Gras celebrations have already kicked off this year, but the big Fat Tuesday event lands on Feb. 16. For those wondering — no, New Orleans Mardi Gras isn't canceled — as the city is celebrating with the appropriate amount of social distancing. In lieu of the famous parades, "house floats" are starting to take shape, with locals literally transforming their houses into floats that spectators can visit. And you better believe that masks will be more creative than ever this year.
But for those missing the traditional revelry in the street or looking for a little history and inspiration behind this special event, here are past Mardi Gras photos that capture the essence of this community that truly knows how to have a good time (even during a pandemic).
Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday") happens every year on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the date that begins the fasting season of Lent in the Western Christian tradition. But anyone who's been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans knows it's much more than that.
Basically, it's a celebration of the city itself. After all, the event dates back to 1699 — 19 years before New Orleans was even established. In fact, the city shuts down offices and schools to participate in the several parades, balls and other festivities that occur the weeks leading up to the big day.
Dubbed by locals as "The Greatest Free Show on Earth," most of the parades are organized and funded by Mardi Gras krewes that today exist as private social clubs with restrictive memberships.
Here, a member of the New Orleans Baby Doll Ladies walks down St. Charles Avenue ahead of the Zulu Parade.
The massive floats, intricate costumes and street performances attract an estimated 1.4 million visitors (about four times the city's population) from all over the world to be a part of “les bons temps” — French for “the good times.”
And parade-goers revel in the amount of “throws” — from beads to cups to toys — they collect from the floats passing by. How many exactly? On average, more than 25 million pounds of beads are thrown each year.
Only in a place like New Orleans — where festivals and celebrations are almost a weekly occurrence — could such a big party exist.
Check out more amazing photos ahead that may inspire you to have a celebration of your own.