Mardi Gras 2021: New Orleans Mardi Gras Traditions

Traditions are labeled as a belief or tradition passed down within a group or society, such as putting up a tree on Christmas or eating turkey on Thanksgivings. These traditions often hold symbolic meanings or a special significance within its origins. Much like most major holidays, Mardi Gras has its own set of traditions that has been passed down for generations. From food to Krewes and everything in between, the traditions of Mardi Gras are guaranteed to be a good time.

Krewes

Considered one of the most well-known terms associated with Mardi Gras, Krewes are a social organization that hosts parades or balls for Carnival season. While some can be highly secretive and exclusive, Krewes can have open membership available for anyone who wishes to join. They can be formed by neighborhoods, general interest, and even involvement in the community.  

Krewe members are assessed fees, ranging in prices determined by size, that are put towards paying each groups parade and ball for the year. These fees often determine if members have to work to build the floats themselves or if professionals can be hired instead. While “super krewes” do not possess a official definition, they typically over 1000 active members and maintain at least 500 riders for each carnival.

Royalty

Where there is a krewe, there is usually royalty. Most krewes select a royal each year, consisting of a king, queen, dukes, and maids. The queen varies from krewe to krewe. In traditional all males krewe, the queen is usually a debutante; however, in all female krewes, a member is typically crowded as the queen.

“The King of Carnival” is anointed each year. Per tradition, the Krewe of Rex makes the selection, and the king is presented a symbolic key to the city by the mayor on Mardi Gras day.

Parades

With Carnival roots dating back as far as the Middle Ages, the first “official” Mardi Gras celebration took place in 1833. It all began when a wealthy landowner sponsored a “creole-style” celebration that was supervised by city officials. While they later became “official” celebrations, Mardi Gras celebrations have always possessed a rowdy and disorganized nature. By 1856, the modern parade era was born when the Mistick Krewe of Comus held a 2-float night parade.

The tradition of float riders throwing prizes, including candies and bon-bons and eventually glass beads, was enough to keep a large crowd coming out. As time went on, more krewes joined in the celebration, resulting in influx in parading in the 1950s. By 1958, parades moved in suburbs where that continued to pop up well into the 1970s.

Throws

A “throw” is used as a collective term often used to describe objects that are thrown from floats to parade-goers. Glass beads were commonly used as throws up until the 1960’s when they were later switched to less expensive and more durable plastic beads. The plastic beads lower price point allowed for float riders to purchase greater qualities, resulting in throws becoming more common and greater in numbers.

In the 1990s, larger and more elaborate beads became the most sought-after throws after parade goers lost interest in the cheaper, smaller beads. As a result, krewes began to create limited edition beads and plush toys that were unique to their specific krewe. Today, parade goers are sure to catch a wide variety of items, including LED- powered prizes and soft toys, by simply yelling the popular phrase, “throw me something mister”.

Colors

In 1872, The Krewe of Rex began the traditions of colors with their parade theme “Symbolism of Colors” as a way to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke, Alexi Alexandrovich Romanov. It is at this time that the official colors of Mardi Gras were determined to be purple, green, and gold. Each color possessed its own meaning, and the people of New Orleans were asked to showcases one of the three. Purple was a symbol for justice. Green symbolized faith, and gold holds the meaning of power.

While it is not fully known why three colors or these colors specifically were chosen, many have made their own theory. Errol Flynn Laborde, a famous local historian, concluded that three colors were chosen to represent a kingdom. As a result, it followed the same color pattern like other major flags, such as the United States and Great Britain. As for the colors, Laborde believes it came down to symbolism, making purple and gold an obvious choice, and green the best last option.

Masks

While the tradition of wearing masks has dated back though different societies for centuries, Mardi Gras masks, like many other traditions, originated in ritual celebrations. Masks began as a way for its wearers to escape the tight constraints of society and social class. Carnival goers were given a new sense of freedom, allowing them to be who they wanted to be and interact with anyone despite class standings, by simply wearing a mask.

Today, masks are a major staple in Mardi Gras tradition. In fact, it is required by law for each float rider to wear a mask. On Fat Tuesday, everyone is allowed to wear masks if they please, adding to the air of excitement and magic that is seen throughout Mardi Gras traditions.

King Cake

Image Credit: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/king-cake-recipe2-2122415

Starting on January 6th in honor of Epiphany, otherwise known as Twelfth Night, the tastiest Mardi Gras tradition begins. King Cakes are a sweet dough twisted into a round usually filled with cream or fruit and often topped with colored sugar or fruit. Typical Louisiana-styled cakes are usually decorated in well-known themed colors: purple, green, and gold.   

Twelfth Night marks the arrival of the three wise men, or kings, who delivered gifts to the baby Jesus. It is because of this that a plastic baby is hidden within king cakes today, representing a nod to this story. The tradition of hiding a small plastic baby was popularized in the 1950’s by a commercial bakery by the name of McKenzie. According to Mardi Gras traditions, the person who finds the hidden baby in their piece must host the next year’s celebration.

Flambeaux

Flambeaux is one Mardi Gras tradition that is believed to have blossomed well beyond its original practical purpose and into a revered art form. Flambeaux, or flaming torch, debut in 1857 as a way to light Carnival parades at night. Flambeaux began as a necessity, but soon evolved into a magical spectacle. Men carrying the torches began to dance while they would twirl and wave their sticks of fire, resulting in tips being thrown at these performers.

To keep this tradition alive, Mardi Gras krewes begin their parades with flambeaux out of respect for those that have come before them. While the torches have since received modern updates to keep their flames flowing all night, parade goers still offer tips to the performers.

Experience More Traditions

The deep-rooted traditions of New Orleans culture, especially those seen during Mardi Gras, is keeps visitors coming back year after year. A little taste of the New Orleans spirit is never enough. If you find yourself in town and are looking for a little adventure that features a unique and up-close experience with local wildlife, look no further that Cajun Encounters.

Cajun Encounters is a great family-friendly experience with enough excitement to peak your attention. Guests are able to experience the beauty of one of the most untarnished ecosystems in America first-hand, and, if that is not enough, there are plenty of educational opportunities to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit it. Guests are guaranteed the best educational experience possible with trained experts as their guides. Cajun Encounters is working hard to ensure not only the satisfaction but also the safety of its visitors by implementing proper COVID-19 protocol. 

Be sure to book in advance to ensure your spot. You do not want to miss out on this incredible experience.

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Mardi Gras 2021: Mardi Gras Balls

While parades are one of the most known Mardi Gras traditions, grand and spectacular Mardi Gras balls hold a special place in Mardi Gras tradition. Balls are formal parties hosted by a specific krewe as a celebration for their members. As a city known for their extravagant parties, Mardi Gras balls are no different. These events often include costumes, dancing, music, food, and anything else needed to have a night fit for royalty.

About

Image credit: https://www.neworleans.com/events/holidays-seasonal/mardi-gras/history-and-traditions/mardi-gras-balls/

In the 19thcentury, the elite of Carnival organizations began searching for a way to evoke a world of romance and chivalry during a time of reconstruction. As a result, these members began acting out aristocratic fantasies based on the style of royal courts and palaces of Old Europe, resulting in the creation of Mardi Gras balls.

Mardi Gras balls often involve rituals and intricate codes that have been passed down through history. Majority of Mardi Gras balls are private affairs, often needing invitations to even attend. Original invitations were die-cut and printed in Paris, making them a hot commodity. So hot that sometimes prominent figures do not even make the cut, including governors, making people feel less left out when not receiving invitations. Today, invitations can be considered valuable works of art, resulting in colorful and beautiful designs often being framed as collectors’ items.

Mardi Gras Balls can be considered social climbing events, resulting in a lavish affair. Ball gowns are a must for women attendees. Debutantes, making their formal introduction into society, hoped to be issued a “call-out” card. These cards result in a dance with an attending male member.

The highlight of the evening including the cutting of the Mardi Gras cake, otherwise known as the Gateau de Rois. Tradition states that whoever finds the bean in their piece of cake would have to host the next ball. As a result, Mardi Gras balls are full of good food and good times.

History

Image Credit: https://www.neworleans.com/events/holidays-seasonal/mardi-gras/history-and-traditions/mardi-gras-balls/

It is believed that the first ball was held by the Mistick Krewe of Comus in the year of 1857. This ball was held at the Gaiety Theatre, later called the Varieties Theatre, up until 1868 when it moved to the new Varieties Theatre.

The first Krewe of Rex balls began in 1873 and were held in the Exposition Hall until 1906. In 1907, Rex began to hold its ball at The Athenaeum when this tradition continued until 1929. This ball marks the only appearance of Enrico Caruso, legendary tenor, in June of 1920.

In the later years, Comus began to hold its balls at the French Opera House. In 1882, the Rex Krewe visited Comus near midnight, resulting in a custom that is still seen today. It is believed that approximately 137 balls are held each year, beginning always on January 6th with the Twelfth Night Ball.

Tableaux

Tableau Vivant, otherwise known as “living picture”, is known as setting a group of costumed individuals in carefully arranged static poses within a set and its related props. Its purpose often serves as a way to illustrate popular mythological stories, paintings, and even known events, including archetypal, classical, and historical.

On February 2ndof 1857, the best of Louisiana’s society gathered at the Gaiety Theatre anxiously waiting for the start of the tableau ball. Its grandeur and vivid imagination would soon stun a city already accustomed to the most fabulous of balls. The Mistik Krewe of Comus presented its guests with four tableaux: Tartus, The Expulsion, The Conference of Satan and Beelzebub, and a bare stage. Each tableaux showcased a visual depiction of a mythological story.

While the tradition of tableau has slowly been lost since the uprising of other popular, more sought-after Mardi Gras traditions, The New Orleans Society of Tableau Vivant pays homage to this creative tradition.

Mardi Gras Balls still play a major role in the tradition of Mardi Gras today. With the introduction of the infamous COVID-19 virus, however, these special events have been put on hold until further notice, but this unfortunate development will not keep the resilient people of New Orleans down.

New Orleans is still offering attractions that are sure to keep those who are missing Mardi Gras entertained. For those looking for a little adventure that features a unique and up-close experience with local wildlife, Cajun Encounters is the best place to start.

Guests are able to experience the beauty of one of the most untarnished ecosystems in America first-hand, and, if that is not enough, there are plenty of educational opportunities to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit it. Guests are guaranteed the best experience possible with trained experts as their guides. Cajun Encounters is working hard to ensure not only the satisfaction but also the safety of its visitors by implementing proper COVID-19 protocol

Be sure to book in advance to ensure your spot. You do not want to miss out on this incredible experience.

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Mardi Gras 2021: Popular Parades of New Orleans

by Kaylan Courteaux

When thinking of the festivities of Mardi Gras, parades are usually the first thing that comes to mind. Parades are procession of people, often in costumes, who are accompanied by marching bands, floats, and sometimes balloons. Parades can take on different means depending on the mood, but in the city of New Orleans they are always seen as a form of celebration when Mardi gras season rolls around. While New Orleans has an abundance of parades to choose from, if you are on a time crunch the following parades are the ones you must see.

Rex

Since the creation of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Krewe of Rex has been setting the standards for parades. As a classic parade, Rex is known for using original designs to bring to life its chosen themes, usually centered around literature. It’s signature features often involving the Butterfly King and a throne for Rex himself. As the longest running parade, Rex is seen as the most authentic and traditional parade that New Orleans has to offer. 

Zulu

Originally made to give black New Orleanians a parade of their own, Zulu is seen as one of the favorites among carnival goers. It is most-known for their coconuts throws, considered one of the most coveted throws in all of the Mardi gras season.

Endymion

Image Credit: https://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/parades/krewe-of-endymion

Holding the motto is “Throw ‘til it Hurts”, it is no wonder The Krewe of Endymion draws a crowd of over 30 thousand parade-goers. With over 3,000 masked riders, Endymion holds the title of the biggest parade of the carnival season and is estimated to toss out more than 15 million throws. As the only parade to march along Canal Street, Endymion is a weekend-long social event often involving big names or celebrity events.

Thoth

Making its way through New Orleans for over 70 years, the Krewe of Thoth parade contains approximately 1,600 rides spanning over 50 floats. As a result, it is ranked the second biggest parades in New Orleans, just after the famous Endymion. This krewe often is seen with an Egyptian motif within the first few floats.

Bacchus

Image Credit: http://www.kreweofbacchus.org/floats/signature-floats/

The Krewe of Bacchus is known for breaking Carnival tradition and hosting a Sunday night parade. This parade showcased floats that were bigger and more spectacular than anything previously seen. As if that was not enough, they were the first to use a national celebrity as their king to lead the parades. With more than 1,600 members spanning over 32 animated super-floats, this super krewe is considered one of the most spectacular in carnival history.

Orpheus

Image Credit: https://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/parades/krewe-of-orpheus

Orpheus is one of the prettiest parades of the Carnival season.  Since its creation in 1994, it has used design elements of the old-line groups. Its most notable floats including Dolly Trolley and the Smoking Mary. With over 700 members, Orpheus falls under the category of super krewe with Endymion and Bacchus, and it was the first super krewe to allow both male and female riders. One of their most sough-after items include four-foot-long stuffed dragons.

Proteus

The Krewe of Proteus is prefect for those who are less concerned with the throws and more interested in the history of carnival. Proteus is the second-oldest krewe in Carnival history and still used the original 1880’s chassis in todays floats. It is the only surviving nighttime 19thcentruy parade, making it a historic preservation of design and tradition.  

Muses

Image Credit: https://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/parades/krewe-of-muses

Having only begun in the year 2000, the Krewe of Muses quickly cemented itself as a fan favorite during carnival season. As a female-only krewe, Muses has played a major role in expanding female participation, and their humorous and biting parade themes are consistent in drawing a crowd. Their throws often consist of decorated high-heeled shoes and logo cups designed by students in the surrounding area.

Mardi Gras parades are seen as a celebration and visitors and locals alike anticipate their arrival all year. Unfortunately, new and old parade-goers must wait a little bit longer to experience the excitement that follow these events. With the development of the COVID-19 virus, many parades have been cancelled to help prevent the spread of the virus. However, some parades have just postponed their celebrations until later in the year. Be sure to check the developing schedules to attend one of the memorable parades above.

Like most catastrophic events, COVID-19 has done little to break the residents of New Orleans spirit. New Orleans is still keeping their hopes high and offering COVID-19 safe attractions that are sure to keep those who are missing Mardi Gras entertained. For those looking for a little adventure that features a unique and up-close experience with local wildlife, look no further than Cajun Encounters.

Guests are able to experience the beauty of one of the most untarnished ecosystems in America first-hand. If that is not enough, there are plenty of educational opportunities to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit it. Guests are guaranteed the best educational experience possible with trained experts as their guides. Cajun Encounters is working hard to ensure not only the satisfaction but also the safety of its visitors by implementing proper COVID-19 protocol

Be sure to book in advance to ensure your spot. You do not want to miss out on this incredible experience.

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Mardi Gras 2021: History

After Christmas ends, the festive season has just begun in New Orleans. Considered a major holiday, Mardi Gras is celebrated throughout the whole state of Louisiana. Much like New Orleans, the history of Mardi Gras is deep and intricate, making it as interesting as it is colorful.

Origins

The origin of Mardi Gras goes back further than New Orleans, tracing back to medieval Europe and traveling through Venice and Rome in the 17thand 18thcentury. It was around this time that “Beouf Gras”, otherwise known as the fatted calf, and the celebrations that surround it made its way to France.

In March of 1699, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, a French-Canadian explorer, arrived at plot of land just 60 miles south of New Orleans. Upon arrival, Bienville and his men realized it was the eve of the well-known holiday, resulting in him naming the land “Pointe du Mardi Gras”. By the 1730’s, Mardi Gras was an openly celebrated holiday in the city of New Orleans. The parades, however, varied form how we known them today. In the early 1740’s, lavish society balls were established by Marquis de Vaudreuil, the governor of Louisiana. These became the blueprint for the modern New Orleans Mardi Gras balls.

By the arrival of the 1830’s, New Orleans had begun the tradition of street processions and maskers with horseback riders and carriages. It is around this time that “flambeaux”, the use of gaslight torches, became known. Flambeaux was used as a way to light the path for krewe members, adding an air of excitement and romance to the festivities.

Twelfth Night Revelers and Their Impact

In 1870, the Twelfth Night Revelers was formed in New Orleans, making it the second-oldest Carnival organization. TNR hosted its first parade and ball on January 6, 1870 and continued until 1876 when it became a ball-only krewe. It is believed by many that the Twelve Night Revelers introduced many present-day Carnival customs.

One major contribution being “throws”. In 1871, The Twelfth Night Revelers showcased a float rider with a rider dressed as Santa Claus tossing trinkets into the crowd. This cemented them in history as the first recorded throws. As a result, they helped introduce and popularize the custom this Mardi Gras tradition. The Twelfth Nights Revelers are also believed to be the first to introduce debutantes as the queens and maids in its royal courts.

After the Twelfth Night Revelers, newspapers began announcing Mardi Gras events in advance, and it was not long before the “Carnival Edition” was produced soon after. This edition included lithographs of the already premiered float designs since they were kept a secret until the procession.  These visual aspects began as small with hardly any details, but later became larger with more detail and added color in 1886. These intricate float and costume designs were straight from the imagination of Carlotta Bonnecase, Charles Briton, and B.A. Wikstrom and brought to life by Georges Soulie, a Parisian paper-mâché artist. Soulie was responsible for creating all of the Carnival’s floats and processional outfits for 40 years.

Experience More

If Mardi Gras brings you to New Orleans, don’t be afraid to stop and take a look around. Looking for a little adventure that features a unique and up-close experience with local wildlife?  Cajun Encounters is exactly what you have been searching for. Guests are able to experience the beauty of one of the most untarnished ecosystems in America first-hand, and, if that is not enough, there are plenty of educational opportunities to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit it. Guests are guaranteed the best educational experience possible with trained experts as their guides. Cajun Encounters is working hard to ensure not only the satisfaction but also the safety of its visitors by implementing proper COVID-19 protocol

Be sure to book in advance to ensure your spot. You do not want to miss out on this incredible experience.

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199