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Krewes to boos of Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Published February 9th, 2016

Masked revelers, gaudy floats, glamorous balls and thousands of partakers frolicking in hedonistic chaos vying for strings of beads and good times.

Mardi Gras is kicking off in New Orleans’ right now.

While revelers indulge let’s celebrate with them by taking a look at a few contributing factors to why Mardi Gras has been hailed as one of America’s greatest parties for over a century.

King Rex

Mardi Gras began in New Orleans as exclusive parties with masked revelers after a French-Canadian brought the tradition to the region (Mardi Gras’ origins go back to medieval Europe, BTW). But it wasn’t until 1857 that Mardi Gras was cemented in the city’s history and it’s all thanks to King Rex taking the party from behind closed doors to parade the streets. There are still private soirees and masks a-plenty today, but us common folk can find a place to party too! Way to go King Rex. In honor of Rex, who also assigned festival colours (purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power) his krewe hosted the final parade of Mardi Gras each year. Complete with elected monarchs; expect elegant designs, traditional floats and all the grandeur of the krewe’s original parades from a century ago.

  ✌️⚜ #mardigras #kreweofmuses #muses #kingrex   A photo posted by kayla_richele (@kayla_richele) on

Indulgence is key

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, also known as Shrove Tuesday. It remains a welcomed final indulgent blow out before the Catholic fasting season of Lent kicks in the next day (Ash Wednesday). One day of feasting isn’t enough for the people of New Orleans – enter Carnival season. Mardi Gras is the last day of Carnival, which starts on with Bal Masque on the Twelfth Night (January 6 each year).  The biggest and bestest of the 50-plus parades are reserved for the last four-days including Mardi Gras itself.  Basically the momentum builds and builds from one parade to the next, popping with Rex who as the first-ever krewe has the honor of showcasing the final parade.

We are getting closer to #FatTuesday I'll be at the #ZuluBall tonight!

A photo posted by Holly Monteleone (@hollymonteleone) on

Krewes and super krewes

Rex, Zulu, Indians are names of some of Mardi Gras’ illustrious masking and parading clubs known as krewes. They’re the backbone of Mardi Gras. Each krewe has their own flavor, royalty, parties and parades individually themed in Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology complete with individual quirks and rituals. Bacchus krewe, for example, are renowned for their fanciful Rendezvous supper dance and large signature floats in a parade that draws 100s of thousands each year. Some krewes are exclusive, keep membership a secret and require members to wear a mask at all times! Newer and flashier krewes, like Harry Connick Jr’s Orpheus, have become ‘super krewes’ with celebrity guests from Quentin Tarantino to Fats Domino leading their thousand-plus people floats and gracing their lavish parties. Celebrities are everywhere during Mardi Gras.


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Mardi Gras unmasked


 

Throws, boos and king cakes

Know thy Mardi Gras lingo. Why are parade goers dancing, yelling and even flashing float riders? They’re chasing a ‘throw’. Throws are trinkets like string beads or krewe merchandise and the competition for them is fierce. The most coveted throw is arguably gold painted coconuts thrown at the Zulu krewe’s parade. Watch your head! Meanwhile drinking on the street is legal at Madi Gras and it seems like a great idea at the time. Then comes the cocktail called the Hurricane, a Mardis Gras drink with serious hangover fame (sorry Bob Dylan). Newbies sometimes get a shock eating their first king cake – an oval brioche-type cake with a hidden plastic baby inside. Get the baby and it’s not a proposal, rather a commitment to host next year’s party.

It might be too late to book a ticket this year, but you can go to New Orleans anytime, or book ahead for next year! Check out our United States of Awesome USA SALE!

Jolee Wakefield

A seasoned backpacker and travel writer, Jolee has spent the past decade wandering the globe in pursuit of good vibes, unusual conversations and unforgettable adventures like cave diving in Mexico, mountain climbing in Borneo and learning (failing at) local dances in the Pacific nation of Kiribati.