It’s the end of February and there’s a party in the works. Music fills the air, balconies are overflowing with beads and carnival masks, floats are parading and the streets are bursting with colors of gold, lilac and green. In this city of cities where the deep south converges in a mix of jazz, Creole and Cajun culture the vibe is magnetic. You’re drawn into the streets, swayed by the rhythm of the drums, and swept away to join the crowds in their festivities. It’s Mardi Gras, baby and New Orleans is just getting into the groove!
The party has been going for a long time. Mardi Gras is an old tradition tracing its roots back to the Roman ritual Lupercalia. The pagan tradition was incorporated into Christianity which re-marked the celebrations as beginning on the Epiphany and ending on the day before Ash Wednesday. The practice of eating richer foods before the start of Lenten fast gave the festival the name of Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday”. The tradition sailed to the Americas in 1699 with the French explorers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, who landed ~60 miles downriver from modern-day New Orleans. From there it grew and was both fêted and banned over the next few hundred years through to the first documented parade in 1837.
These days Mardi Gras is a firm tradition in New Orleans and a big, massive, crazy party of ~4 million people. We just wanted a taste of the thing, so we decided to hit NOLA the week before the biggest celebrations. We sauntered into town Sunday morning and stepped right into the heart of the thing. Parades of horses, floats and marching bands were walking down Canal Street while musicians and costumed pets were parading in the French Quarter. We spent the whole afternoon saturating our senses with color, beads and music. As it turns out fellow RVers and bloggers Christy and Kali from Techosyncratic were also in NOLA, so next evening we ventured back out to make new friends and sample Creole food and the classic New Orleans Sazerac cocktail.
All in all, it was quite the visit. We head out of town with our hearts light, our bellies full and the beads to prove we were here for the party.