Mardi Gras 2024: A Look at New Orleans’s Largest Annual Celebration

Mardi Gras | Library of Congress

Every year, massive crowds go to the streets of New Orleans to enjoy Mardi Gras, an unparalleled festival featuring music, food, and non-stop excitement. This time-honored, can’t-miss tradition will return this year, promising a wealth of delights. 

Mardi Gras, a historically religious celebration, serves as a final feast and festival preceding the Christian Lent tradition, ending the eve of Ash Wednesday. While inherently tied to Christianity, this festival has evolved into a global phenomenon embraced by millions of people, regardless of their religious beliefs. While there are many renowned Mardi Gras events, few can match the liveliness of New Orleans’s celebration. 

The official Mardi Gras event falls on Tuesday, February 13th this year, when the streets will be filled with parties, parades, music, and traditional delicacies. However, while this day stands as the focal point, the city hosts festivities in January and February leading up to the main event. 

Those who celebrate Mardi Gras will have the opportunity to witness krewes taking to the streets. Krewes, distinct groups that plan and participate in the event’s renowned and extravagant parades, add a unique flair to the celebration. Each krewe has its own themes and histories, with some tracing their origins back more than a century. Krewe Mosaïque is making its Mardi Gras debut this year on January 13th. It will celebrate New Orleans’s history and culture, presenting a variety of DIY elements to focus on the talent of smaller walking krewes.

On the day of Mardi Gras, New Orleans essentially shuts down. Parades transpire across the city, with a special focus on Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. The streets come alive with a vibrant palette of yellow, green, and purple, as onlookers wear colorful attire, beaded necklaces, and masquerade masks. The first parade begins at 8 a.m. in Uptown and continues throughout the day, featuring extravagant floats, stunning costumes, live music, and a myriad of traditions to experience. 

The krewes, beyond orchestrating magnificent parades, also host opulent balls. These formal balls feature famed performers and delicious food. However, many of these balls are by invitation only, adding an exclusive touch that not everyone may have the chance to enjoy.

For many, Mardi Gras is a family-friendly experience, where spectators gather at strategic vantage points, relishing picnics with their loved ones while taking in the unparalleled flamboyance of the proceedings. The event involves many delicious snacks as well. Among the iconic treats associated with Mardi Gras, the spotlight unmistakably belongs to the doughy, sweet king cakes. 

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