When I think of March, one of my first thoughts is Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a Christian holiday that dates back thousands of years and is celebrated in many countries around the world. Mardi Gras is traditionally celebrated on “Fat Tuesday,” the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. In French, “Mardi” means Tuesday, and “Gras” means fat. During Mardi Gras, people eat all of their favorite rich and fatty foods before participating in Lent, the 40 days of fasting between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. New Orleans and other French settlements began celebrating this holiday with street parades, elegant masks, and extravagant dinners.
This year, Mardi Gras was celebrated on Tuesday, March 1st. Due to the pandemic, the Mardi Gras parades have been canceled for the past two years. When I visited New Orleans over President’s Day Weekend, the Mardi Gras festivities were up and running as usual. New Orleans residents were extremely excited to finally celebrate their beloved holiday after two parade-less years. A few Mardi Gras traditions include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats, and eating King Cake. The iconic purple, yellow and green cakes originate from the Biblical story of the three kings who brought gifts to Baby Jesus. The actual cake is a blend of coffee cake and a cinnamon roll, topped with colorful icing. A popular tradition is to hide a figure of Baby Jesus in one slice of the cake. The person who eats that slice has to buy the next cake! Although king cakes are delicious, I would have to say that my absolute favorite tradition is catching beads off the floats. People gather behind the parade barricades as kids and adults throw dozens of colorful beads off their floats. The goal is to collect as many beads as possible of all different varieties. During one of the parades, I traded all kinds of beads and trinkets with a young girl next to me; I had so much fun celebrating the holiday and meeting many locals along the way. I truly immersed myself into the holiday and discovered that the locals are very passionate about this holiday and are extremely fun and down to earth people.
Overall, Mardi Gras is an incredibly unique holiday that brings people together to party and feast before Lent. The rich culture and community of New Orleans makes it one of the best places to celebrate this holiday during late February and early March. I highly encourage you to visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras one year; it is truly an experience like no other.