Each January, the New Orleans Buffalo Exchange starts getting ready for the magical Mardi Gras traditions of Carnival Season, which runs from January 6th (Kings Day or Epiphany) through Mardi Gras (translation: Fat Tuesday). Basically, it is a period of celebration before the fasting of Lent. Carnival season can be as short as four weeks or as long as nine weeks, depending on when Easter falls. For 2017, Mardi Gras falls on February 28th.
Mardi Gras Traditions: King Cake
Beginning on January 6th, New Orleanians start indulging in king cake, a sweet, coffee cake-type dessert with icing and purple, green and gold (yellow) sprinkles on top. These are the colors of Mardi Gras, representing Justice, Faith and Power. At this stage, many revelers start working diligently on costumes for various Mardi Gras parades.
Mardi Gras Parades
The French Quarter parades of Krewe du Vieux and Krewe Delusion kicked off the 2017 Carnival season on February 11th. The following Friday, parades started to roll down Magazine Street and St. Charles Avenue on the Uptown route and continued through the weekend. Some highlights of the weekend included Krewe of Cleopatra, Krewe of Freret and Krewe of King Arthur. Other notable parades included ‘tit Rex, a lineup of mini floats made from shoe boxes, and fan-favorite Mystic Krewe of Barkus, a parade for people and their dogs.
The Carnival season concludes on Fat Tuesday, when New Orleanians converge on the last two parades of the season – Zulu and Rex. During Zulu, floats toss highly coveted decorated coconuts to those watching. In the most famous Mardi Gras tradition of all, the Rex parade throws beads and pillows that correspond to each float’s theme. These parades begin rolling early in the morning so that the city has the whole day to see and be seen in a colorful array of costumes and celebrate before the restrictions of Lent begin.
Mardi Gras Costumes
We spend much of Carnival season helping customers put together costumes for Fat Tuesday or find the perfect dress for their Krewe’s ball. A fun hat or matching wig and tutu are easy ways to get festive without breaking the bank. Bright, big hats are another way to ensure you get noticed by the passing floats and that your cries of ‘Throw me something, mister’ are heard.
Popular costumes for Mardi Gras day tend towards the fanciful: think Marie Antoinette, storybook characters, fairies, jellyfish and exotic birds. Group costumes like a school of fish or different eras of Brittany Spears are popular choices for friends and families. Costumes can definitely lean towards the satirical with political themes, especially for Krewe du Vieux.
All in all, Carnival season is a great time of year when fun and celebration are front and center. The season is so much more than just Mardi Gras day and has so much more history and meaning than we see in the media. If you ever have the chance to come, take it! And be sure to stop into Buffalo Exchange New Orleans so we can get you all decked out!