Last weekend I escaped Nemo's wrath to travel down south for a different type of blizzard--instead of watching snow outside my window, I was screaming for beads as they seemed to fall right out of the sky into my outstretched arms. I was walking miles in shorts, no winter coat in sight. The ground wasn't visible but it was covered in trash, not snow. And instead of an abyss of whiteness, all I saw was green, purple, and gold. I was back in New Orleans, a city I lived in for two years, for Mardi Gras--my favorite holiday.
Since moving from New Orleans to Boston this past fall, I've become a self-proclaimed BU Girl, frequenting COM and Starbucks by day and braving the streets of Allston by night. Whenever I talk about my NOLA (New Orleans, LA!) days, there's one question I just can't avoid: What's Mardi Gras like? Usually, this question is followed up by jokes about beads and boobs. However, although you may see a bit too much indecent exposure if you walk down Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras is about so much more than just partying; it's actually a pretty family-oriented event! The whole city, including visitors from across the US and from abroad, celebrate with a series of different "Krewes," each with their own parade and southern style ball. The Krewes work all year, designing floats, coming up with parade themes, and buying different throws for carnival season.
I love Mardi Gras because it reflects the unique culture of New Orleans that I've come to love. Strangers become friends and the whole city, including tourists are united under a common goal: to get beads and to have a good time.
This is Mardi Gras
The first most anticipated parade of Mardi Gras, Krewe of Muses, marched down St. Charles avenue on Thursday, May 7th. Muses is an all-female Krewe, known for their feminie throws such as bedazzled shoes.
Here, Ruby Bridges, the first African American to attend an all-white southern school, kicks off the Krewe of Muses parade in a ruby red slipper. Bridges was named the Muses’ Honorary Muse for her work with racial harmony.
Mardi Gras 2013 Photo Essay
Krewe of Iris begins a long day of parades on Friday Feb. 8th.
Beads, Beads, Beads!
A member of Krewe of Iris gets ready to throws beads to the uptown New Orleans crowd waiting on St. Charles Ave. Getting beads is a challenge for children and adults alike on Mardi Gras.
The Adorable Children
The Pierre A Capdau marching band parades through uptown New Orleans with Krewe of Tucks on the last Saturday of Mardi Gras.
All parade Krewes include local school marching bands between floats to keep the crowd entertained. Warning, if you're close enough to the parade, you may be at risk to get hit by a swinging instrument, but you will witness the most adorable children!
Krewe of Tucks
Local school bands are recruited to play in different parades months in advance.
Catching Beads takes Strategy
A spectator on St. Charles uptown parade route reaches for more beads from a member of Krewe of Tucks.
Now that I've been to 3 Mardi Gras', I know that getting a full neck of beads takes strategy. Although you're bound to get beads no matter what, getting the fancier beads or throws is easier when you make a connection with someone on a float. Parade goers try to make eye contact with Krewe members to get more beads. They also make signs, and yell out "throw me something mister!"
That's the Spirit
Each float has a driver, which may sound like a boring task, but the drivers can't help but join in the fun! Here, during Tucks' parade, a kid high fives the driver just as he would any other member of the parade.
Beware: you will see Elvis at Mardi Gras. Here, Krewe of Tucks embraced the Mardi tradition of dressing in crazy costumes, as a crew all dressed as Elvis, rolled down the street in sofas.
Don't forget the Kids!
A member of Krewe of Iris can't resist giving a little girl beads. Unfortunately, the cuteness factor doesn't help us college students as much on our mission to get the most beads.
The Parade goes on!
Here, Krewe of Iris continues down St. Charles avenue. There are parades during the day and at night during carnival season.
At the end of the day, you'll be tired from walking miles with no public transportation and weighed down from a pile of beads around your neck. But ultimately, you'll have had the weekend of your life, a weekend of nonstop celebrating with a city that really doesn't sleep.
After living in New Orleans for 2 years and going to Mardi Gras 3 times, let me tell you, you need to go to Mardi Gras! See you in New Orleans next year?
As they say in NOLA, lais bon temp rouler--let the good times roll!