10 Things You Didn’t Know About Mardi Gras and New Orleans

Happy Mardi Gras! (French for Fat Tuesday) Beads, music, booze, parades and skin are all a large part of the New Orleans’ tradition but there is so much more to know about this festival deeply rooted in tradition.

Below are 10 things you didn’t know about Mardi Gras:

1. It’s Not Just About The French Quarter

None of the major Mardi Gras parades have entered the Vieux Carré, better known as The French Quarter, since the 1970s because it’s too cramped. Instead, over a dozen parades roll along tree-lined St. Charles Avenue, flanked by the city’s grandest colonial mansions.

2. Mardi Gras Wasn’t Always A Holiday

Mardi Gras became a holiday in 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII placed it on his Gregorian calender the day before Ash Wednesday. It first appeared in North America in the late 17th century with the LeMoyne brothers’ claim on Louisiana. That’s right folks, Mardi Gras at its core is a religious holiday.

3. There Are No Strict Open Container Laws During Mardi Gras (Or Ever In Louisiana)

Visitors to New Orleans are free to walk around outside while enjoying an alcoholic
beverage during Mardi Gras. In fact, many of the bars in New Orleans will provide “go-cups” for patrons who want to take their drink with them.

4. Gather Up The Krewe

New Orleans has Krewes (pronounced “crews”; the singular is a Krewe, pronounced “crew”). A Krewe is a group that puts on a Mardi Gras parade and/or a ball, according to New Orleans Online. When it is not Mardi Gras season, Krewes are involved in civic and charitable activities. Higher-profile and more expensive Krewes, such as Bacchus or
Proteus, have bigger and more elaborate parades closer to Fat Tuesday. The two most high-profile New Orleans Krewes, Zulu and Rex, have their parades on Mardi Gras day
itself. Lower-profile Krewes have parades further out from Mardi Gras day, and are often tongue-in-cheek. The Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade, for example, features dogs and their owners.

5. You Can Get More Than Just Beads From Mardi Gras Floats

Mardi Gras is famous for beads being tossed from floats, but did you know there are much better ‘throws’ — the name given to the items flung from floats to eager spectators. A hand-decorated shoe is one of the most sought-after Mardi Gras treasures as each unique shoe is fashioned with glitter, feathers, bells and rhinestones. The shoes can take days for a Krewe Muse to make, making them a coveted catch. Another highly sought after throw is the Zulu coconut.

6. Alligator and Turtle Are Available Delicacies To Eat

There is no shortage of alligator dishes to check out while in New Orleans, from fried
alligator to alligator po’boys, even an alligator cheesecake is available at Jacques-Imo’s. When it comes to turtle entrees, the turtle soup at Commander’s Palace is a New Orleans culinary classic.

7. Bull On Parade

Boeuf Gras, the fatted bull, serves as a symbol of the last meat before the Lent Fast and plays a central role in Rex parade celebrations. A real bull named “Old Jeff” walked the route in flowered garlands at the first Rex parade in 1871. The use of real bulls stopped in 1900 but the symbol of Boeuf Gras was resurrected in 1959 in papier-mâché form. Today, Rex krewe members toss small toy Boeuf Gras throws from their floats.

8. Mardi Gras Is A Global Party

New Orleans is not the only city to celebrate Mardi Gras, Brazil and Italy hold world-famous parties, but other countries also have distinct pre-Lent traditions. Belgium’s carnival, held in the town of Binche, has a history dating back to the 14th century!

9. There Is An Official King and Queen of Mardi Gras

The official King of Mardi Gras is Rex – that is, a member of the Krewe of Rex who is given the title “Rex” and chosen to symbolically reign over the festivities. He is also assigned a “consort” – a young lady who symbolically serves as the “Queen” of Mardi Gras.

10. Mardi Gras Is Not Just One Day Of Celebration

Mardi Gras is known as the culmination of the season of Carnival. From the Latin for “farewell to flesh,” the Carnival season is meant to be the last chance for individuals to eat meat and party before having to give up and abstain from such for Lent. Carnival begins on the Day of Epiphany – January 6th, and lasts until Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash