Sept. 25, 2011 – Jan. 8, 2012
Mardis Gras Facts: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Carnival in New Orleans is known as Mardi Gras–French for “Fat Tuesday.” The day before Ash Wednesday, New Orleans adopted Mardi Gras from the French settlers who once colonized the city in the early eighteenth century.
The three recurring colors during Mardi Gras are: Purple (representing Justice), Gold (representing Power), and Green (representing Faith).
For New Orleans residents and visitors alike, collecting the many “throws” (souvenir items) tossed by float riders and walking members throughout the 60 parades is a highlight of the festivities.
Societies known as “krewes” are an important aspect of the Mardi Gras season in New Orleans. Krewes first began when uptown society men formed their own secret societies to orchestrate Carnival parades, floats and elaborate balls for their members. Now, racial and social groups have formed their own exclusive societies. These krewes build their decorative Carnival floats around annual themes.
A “king cake” is deemed absolutely necessary during the Mardi Gras festivities. Bakeries in New Orleans make 750,000 - 850,000 king cakes every year. Embedded in the cakes is a hidden golden bean; tradition holds that whoever finds that bean throws the next party.
When the French settled in New Orleans, enslaved and free Africans were allowed to go to the Congo market on Sunday afternoons to celebrate their own music, song, and dance. Africans emulated the Natives as a form of identification with the local indigenous people. Today, African-American krewes carry on the tradition.
Selection of Mardi gras “throws” from New Orleans, Louisiana, c. 1940 - 2008. Left to right: Zulu Coconut, Zulu medallion beads, Throw doubloon, Pete Fountain’s Half-fast Walking Club medallion beads, Orpheus medallion beads, throw doubloon, and two sets of traditional glass beads.
Photo by E.G. Schempf.