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Make the most of Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras New Orleans PostcardOne of the most colorful celebrations in the US is that of Mardi Gras. This year the event falls on February 17th; however, if you are lucky enough to be able to visit New Orleans you might be able to catch an earlier parade as this year’s celebrations will begin on February 6th. While other places have their own Mardi Gras celebrations, those that take place in New Orleans are the most famous and attract visitors from all over the world.

Most people opt to visit the city on the weekend before, which is when the most popular parades will be taking place. Mardi Gras marks the end of the carnival season and is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. If you are visiting New Orleans with the family then February 6th-8th is a good time to visit This is a free celebration and there will not only be parades but also a number of outdoor concerts featuring national and local musicians.

The tradition of celebrating Mardi Gras dates back to Europe in the Middle Ages, with the French bringing it to their colonies throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The first Mardi Gras celebrations to take place in the US were held in 1703 at Fort Louis de la Mobile. It was here that the parades were first held and usually involved a large bull’s head being pushed through the streets.

New Orleans did not come into being until 1718 and it did not take long before Mardi Gras was celebrated here, even though this did not resemble the celebrations of today. Elegant society balls started in the city in the 1740s and these triggered the trend for fancier events. It was not until 1781 that the word ‘carnival’ was used to refer to the celebrations.

Street processions were common in New Orleans in the 1830s and the festivities included carriages and gaslight torches. Floats started to appear in the 1850s and these were ornately decorated. The different societies or ‘krewes’ were formed around this time and these were responsible for planning the various festivities.

The Mardi Gras celebrations are about fun. In New Orleans there are floats, parades, music and picnics. This is an important holiday in the city. Colors such as purple, green and gold are strong at this time, with people wearing costumes in these colors. You need to remember that at this time many businesses in New Orleans are shut to take advantage of the celebrations and most of the roads are also shut. This is mainly due to the parades; therefore, if you want to visit, you will have to get used to walking everywhere!

We know that not everyone can visit New Orleans for the festivities and there is no harm in you having your own celebration. Remember that the day has a religious significance and that the next day marks the start of a period of simpler living without the excesses that are often part of daily life.

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