It has traditionally been part of the winter social season in New Orleans and at one time "coming out" parties for young women and debutante balls were often held during this time of the year. It is of course the annual festival held in New Orleans, Louisiana called Mardi Gras. The New Orleans Carnival season has its history with the Christmas season and starts after the Twelfth Night of Christmas, or the Epiphany (6 January). During the carnival season there will be numerous parades and balls.
The celebration of Mardi Gras was brought to Louisiana by early French settlers. The exact starting date for Mardi Gras in New Orleans is not known, but it is known that in 1743 that organised balls around this time of year were taking place.
Depending on when Easter is each year, Mardi Gras can fall on any Tuesday between 3 February and 9 March. Mardi Gras is composed of various events such as balls for social clubs in the New Orleans area, but the main event is simply a street festival, open to the public.
The Twelfth Night Revelers, one of the festivals oldest krewes, holds a masked ball each year on 6 January to mark the commencement of the festival. The main parade season starts some three weekends before Fat Tuesday (or Mardi Gras in French). Fat Tuesday is also commonly known around the Christian world as Shrove Tuesday and it is the day before Ash Wednesday. There is usually at least one parade every night starting two Fridays before Mardi Gras, but many days have several large parades. The largest and most elaborate parades take place during the last five days of the season. The population of New Orleans more than doubles with visitors on the weekend before Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a day to be remembered in New Orleans. The city comes alive and celebrations begin early on Mardi Gras Day, but the city parties all day until the stroke of midnight. A number of people will be out wearing masks and disguises.
The formal end of Mardi Gras arrives with "the Meeting of the Courts", a term describing the ceremony at which Rex and His Royal Consort, the King and Queen of Carnival, meet with Comus and his Queen at the ball of the Mistick Krewe of Comus, New Orleans oldest active carnival organization. The Meeting of the Courts happens at the conclusion of the two groups masked balls.
Promptly at the stroke of midnight at the end of Fat Tuesday, New Orleans police officers make a show of clearing upper Bourbon Street where the bulk of out-of-town revellers congregate, announcing that Mardi Gras is over, as it is the start of Lent, commencing with Ash Wednesday.