One thing is for sure, you are going to find it very difficult to find more fun, more excitement, more celebrations and more colorful costumes than the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This event, also known as Fat Tuesday allows people to indulge before the start of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
The Mardi Gras originates from France where it has been celebrated since the Middle Ages. A French explorer known as Iberville landed sixty miles south of the current-day New Orleans, christening the spot Point du Mardi Gras. By around 1823 the American government was persuaded by the local Creoles to re-introduce the Mardi Gras with parties and great merriment. By the time the 19th Century came around, the Mardi Gras was turning into the huge carnival as we know it today, with much revelry and dancing in the streets accompanied by beautifully decorated horse drawn carriages and floats.
What you will find at this outrageous carnival are French royals, showgirls dressed in feathers, painted clowns and bunnies, all parading the streets of New Orleans. You can join in the throngs of people to watch magnificent floats go by, performers performing outrageous tricks and heaps of marching bands and plenty of jazz music to draw you in. You can expect to see more than 350 floats and over 15000 costumes being paraded.
Many famous traditions started with Mardi Gras and one originated from a visit by the Russian duke Alexis Romanoff. Today this royal visit from the house of Romanoff is flaunted with their royal house colors of purple, green and gold, which stand for justice, faith and power and which have now become the official colors of the Mardi Gras. Another wonderful tradition is the throwing of thousands upon thousands of colorful bead necklaces from the floats, a souvenir everyone loves to take home with them, along with cups and toy coins.
The Mardi Gras is just one big holiday in New Orleans and businesses and roads get shut down so that people can enjoy the excitement.
There are over 500,000 king cakes that are sold every year in this city between 6 January and Fat Tuesday and there are over 50,000 of these cakes that are shipped out of New Orleans on an overnight courier. You might find yourself nibbling on a cake, which includes a small plastic baby doll inside. If you find it, you are declared a king and you will be the one to buy the next cake!
On the 6th of January each year a group of about fifty men and women called the PPP or the Phunny Phorty Phellows ride in costumes in a decorated car along St Charles Avenue blowing loud trumpets, accompanied by a Dixieland band, eating the famous king cake and tossing it to onlookers.
One can go on talking about the New Orleans Mardi Gras, but you have to be there to experience the magic. It is on the bucket list of things to do for millions of would-be travelers.