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.
The 100-day countdown to Mardi Gras celebrations has already begun, but the big Fat Tuesday event lands on March 1. For those wondering — yes, New Orleans Mardi Gras is happening this year — but you better plan on bringing a vaccination card or negative COVID test if you want to participate. While some of the famous parades are back, last year's "house floats" will continue to thrive, with locals literally transforming their houses into floats that spectators can visit. And the masks will continue to be more creative than ever.
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).
Celebrating Mardi Gras Is Part of New Orleans History
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.
Private Social Clubs Are the Name of the Game
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.
Massive Floats Attract Travelers From Around the Globe
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.
You'll Learn to Toss and Catch Beads Like a Pro
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.