A New Englander’s Take on the Big Easy’s Mardi Gras

Normally trees don’t bloom in February. In New Orleans, Louisiana they do. They bloom with colorful strands of beads that remain there for weeks, possibly months! Or… the beads were tossed from creatively decorated floats by masked and costumed people to exuberant and loud spectators and they were caught instead by the trees.

Most people think Mardi Gras is celebrated just one day, the day before Lent starts, commonly called “Fat Tuesday.” They would be partially right. Yes, that is the name for that day, but all the fun, the parades, the balls-yes, many elaborate dance balls, and the merriment starts on January 6th that is also called 12th night and will end on February 13th. That  time period is considered Carnival! Who doesn’t need several weeks of colorful fun?!

Can’t get to New Orleans to watch any of them? Do like I do. I make a nice pot of gumbo and tune into a live webcam on my tablet.

Coming up on February 3rd there are 14 parades, and if you’re not interested in the Superbowl, switch over and watch 7 parades to pick up your mood!

Check here for the full schedule:  http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/schedule.html

Not long ago I visited New Orleans and one of the factories that makes and stores the floats-“Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World”. It was extremely colorful and informative. Kind of like walking through a cartoon!

Because the floats are so massive, they have to use very light materials to keep the overall weight and costs down. That means most of the props and decorations are actually made from paper, foam board, and fiberglass.

What I found most impressive was how they recycle and re-imagine many of the floats and props to make the next year’s design because there are hundreds of floats needed!

If you do visit New Orleans, I highly recommend you take time to tour one of the float factories. Especially if you are like me, a Yankee with limited knowledge of the history and traditions of Carnival, and especially if you are like me and love art in its many forms. And who knows, the next time you watch your livestream of one of the parades, you might just see the float you saw up close and personal, drift by like I did!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another fun fact about the New Orleans Carnival Parades, is that more than beads are thrown from the floats. Many of the Krewes (the general name given to the clubs that sponsor each float) are famous for the special trinkets they toss, from coconuts to coins (doubloons ), to even shoes! The young people who offered commentary to the livestream I was watching last year, were having a blast collecting beads and all the special throws. (the following are screen shots)

All kinds of beads are tossed.

Yes, that is a painted high heel shoe tossed to spectators.

And if you are lucky, you catch these!

Six more bits of trivia about Mardi Gras and Carnival I didn’t know;  

Mardi Gras Tuesday is a legal holiday in Louisiana.

The original floats were made in France.

The idea of celebrating Carnival/Mardi Gras has medieval roots.

Everyone who rides on the floats are required by law to wear a mask.

The official colors are purple, gold, and green.

The traditional King Cakes look like the braided Easter Bread with more frosting, filling and goodies attached.

So that is a quick look at a fun festival from a Northerner’s point of view!

Now get that pot of gumbo cooking, bake a King Cake, charge up your tablet/phone and prepare to relax and smile and brighten up your day as you watch the parades go by!

Here are a couple livestream links so you follow the parades day and night: I am sure there are more.

http://www.nola.com/paradecam/

https://www.earthcam.com/events/mardigras/

(more screen shots. Now come on, sign in and have some fun!)

 

 

 

 

For more info on Mardi Gras, check out this link: http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/history.html

 

Atwood..ready to party!

 

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