Mardi Gras 2019 is officially already underway in locations like New Orleans … meaning it’s time to start celebrating everywhere.
The biggest parades and celebrations will be taking place the final weekend of February and first weekend of March leading up to Fat Tuesday, March 5.
Whether you’re new to the celebration or trying to experience Carnival for the first time, here’s everything you need to know about Mardi Gras 2019.
“Mardi Gras” can refer to the final (Fat) Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season in the Catholic calendar, but it’s often used to describe the whole season prior to that point … the time period from early January until Fat Tuesday. It’s basically the time to blow off some steam and celebrate before going into good Catholic mode. And here’s something many people don’t understand about Mardi Gras: it’s family friendly. No, really. Granted, you can find some bad behavior without looking too hard, but the majority of the celebration is appropriate for kids and families — or at least as tame as your typical tailgating environment. This misconception is one of several to be aware of … so follow the link to learn more.
How did it start?
The short story of Mardi Gras in the United States is that it was brought here by French Catholic settlers who put down roots in the area we now call New Orleans. They celebrated Carnival with masked balls and decadent foods. The longer story involves the longstanding tradition of Carnival in Europe and the city of Mobile, Ala., where such modern flourishes as secret societies, parades, floats and throws were added to the mix. This has created a long-standing debate between Mobile and New Orleans about which city can brag about being the birthplace of Mardi Gras … in truth, both communities were important.
12th Night or Epiphany (Jan. 6) marks the beginning of “Mardi Gras season” … which is also the beginning of king cake season. Modern king cake is kind of like a giant cinnamon roll in a big donut shape, which is then cut and served in much smaller pieces. The variations and flourishes are numerous, but most king cakes have a miniature plastic baby inside … if you get a piece with the baby, you purchase the next cake. Them’s the rules!
So let’s say you’ve committed to trying to take in a parade for Mardi Gras 2019. Whether you’re going down to New Orleans or checking out a smaller parade along the Gulf Coast, the principles are pretty much the same … and you’ll want to be as prepared as possible. Musts include water, snacks and a bathroom plan (that last one is critical!). And despite what some might think, not everything goes. For our whole checklist, follow the link!
New Orleans parades
If you want to do it big, New Orleans is always your best option. Conveniently, Nola Weekend has the entire parade schedule here for your perusal. If you want something more family friendly, consider the weekend of Feb. 22. Want to immerse yourself in the crowds and full madness? Those parades start Feb. 27 and run through Bacchus March 3. Many tourists and college co-eds clear out by Lundi Gras, making March 4 & 5 more of a “locals time.” Finally, be aware that most of the biggest parades travel along the “Uptown” route, but there are parades all over. Decide what experience you want to have and plan from there!
One of the traditions of modern Mardi Gras parades is to bring in celebrities to serve as grand marshals/kings/queens. Once again, Nola Weekend has the resource you need with a full list of scheduled celebrity appearances in New Orleans for Mardi Gras 2019. And whether you’re more of a Lionel Richie or Flo Rida fan, there’s a little something here for everyone.
The musical tradition of New Orleans paired with one of the biggest celebrations in the world has naturally created a wealth of Mardi Gras music to enjoy. Some of this music has leaked out of the city in unexpected ways (cough, Iko Iko), though all of it is meant to be enjoyed during Carnival. What’s more: New Orleans hasn’t been shy about adopting several outside tunes into its playlists or marching band sets. This particular playlist is a great starting point for anyone wanting to celebrate … where ever they are.
Here are a few more resources for Mardi Gras 2019 — be safe and have fun!