Mardi Gras- Fat Tuesday- Shrove Tuesday- Carnival || All names for greatest free show on earth!
Growing up around New Orleans culture is truly a gift. One way this gift manifests itself is through Mardi Gras. Filled with music, elegant balls, parades, and king cake; Mardi Gras is the time of year when all let loose, no matter what age. The people of Southern Louisiana will brave the cold, heat, rain, wind, and even sleet to celebrate in a way that only New Orleans knows how. It’s been 4 years since I’ve been able to enjoy the festivities, but I have enough memories to last a lifetime. Mardi Gras is just different for a native. It’s a fun time for visitors, but it’s a really fun time for natives (sans the traffic, litter, and 24/7 crowding). Kids in Southern Louisiana usually get a week off from school during the celebration and Stores even shorten their hours. All so everyone can enjoy what is truly a magical time in America’s most interesting city.
A fan favorite of Mardi Gras parades would be the horses. You can find both law enforcement on crowd control duty, and members of the Krewes on horseback. It’s a beautiful sight, watching those horses march down the street. The horses, sometimes dressed in costume, are all glitz. But for a few of us, myself included, the horses don’t produce the greatest memories.
Once when I was a child, the horses in the parade route passing in front of my house had a bit of a startle. One horse in particular was beyond frightened. He jumped back and ran off of the road, continuing all the way around my house and back towards the highway. I’m unsure of what happened next because at this point I had found my way to our car and under the back seat, but it all ended relatively well and with no injuries. It’s all just part of the revelry. You never know what will happen.
Another great addition to the city during Mardi Gras is the food. Everyone knows New Orleans has some of the best food around, but it improves during Mardi Gras. One of the best additions to the lineup of cuisine in the Crescent City is King Cake. King Cake is without a doubt my favorite of the Mardi Gras traditions. Dozens of king cakes enter our home during the season. Strawberry, crème cheese or lemon, the filling doesn’t matter to a true New Orleanian. We’ll eat it anyway!
One of my favorite Krewes that roll through New Orleans during Mardi Gras is Zulu. It’s got a great history behind it and some of the best floats and costumes to be seen. Of course, if you really want to enjoy it, you have to get there about 3 hours early. The crowd size is tremendous as this is one of New Orleans’ biggest parades. But the waiting around is so worth it. The music, the vibes, the fun, Zulu runs on Lundi Gras morning, bright and early. It opens up the Lundi Gras festival with fireworks and brass bands. Getting blessed with a coconut from the King is the ultimate goal of Zulu parade goers. I’ve been the lucky recipient of a few, and my sister has gotten hit in the head with one occasionally.
Honestly, Mardi Gras, even explained at its best, is something you have to experience for yourself. Making the trip to New Orleans is always worth it, no matter the season. It’s a thrill that’s for sure. It may be too late to make it this year, but Mardi Gras 2018, is bound to have some great things in store. You can never plan too early.
Until Then, Laissez les bon temps roulez!
Chase Encalade is a Junior at Christian Brothers University studying English for Corporate Communication. She is also a native of the New Orleans area.