The Magic of Mardi Gras

Thanks to an influx of southwest vacations promo codes, a uniquely American festival has now become available to more people worldwide: Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras is the annual weeklong carnival of excess and hedonism celebrated throughout the world in the week leading up to the austere season of Lent.  It’s the last hurrah before six weeks of fasting and sacrifice.  The Mardi Gras celebration culminates on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.   In the United States, Mardi Gras is recognized and celebrated all over but is most popular in the South and no city celebrates Fat Tuesday like New Orleans. 

Owing to NOLA’s rich French and Spanish heritage, Mardi Gras has forever been a part of the Crescent City’s lifeblood.  The traditions of drunken revelry, debauchery and mask wearing have survived over centuries and joined forces with the finest traditions of southern hospitality and generosity. Mardi Gras was not born in the South but it has certainly flourished on the Gulf Coast – southern style!

To the casual observer, Mardi Gras in Louisiana appears to be a tourist-driven bacchanal, but those who have experienced a Big Easy Mardi Gras up close and personal know that it is so much more.  Having once tasted the forbidden fruits, the magic that is Mardi Gras stays with you forever. 

Mardi Gras is so much more than a bunch of drunks on Bourbon Street hanging off the wrought iron balconies. It is that, for sure, but it is also the magnificent parades on Canal Street led by the mighty krewes of Bacchus and Zulu.   It’s the Mardi Gras Indians with their hand-stitched feather costumes.  It’s the hundreds of smaller parades throughout the Garden District, Uptown and the surrounding parishes.  It’s the children’s parades, the masked balls, the floats, and the throws.  It’s the crayfish, the gumbo, and the Creole brews and stews that fill the air.  It’s the dancing in the street and the pure joy and “joie de vivre” of thousands of people coming together for no real reason whatsoever other than the calendar says it’s time to party.

Maybe more than anything else, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the music – the sounds and rhythms that pull you in and seduce you for life.  It starts at the airport where you land in the birthplace of jazz.  The music envelops as you wait for your taxi – jazz, horns, strings, brass bands, Cajun and zydeco.  All of the sudden, you’re a really good dancer!   The cab driver entertains you in that charming accent (a strange combination of Deep South and Brooklyn) and you soon realize that his stories are really lyrics to the songs of life in his city. As they say in the Big Easy, “Laissez les bons temps rouler”. Let the good times roll!

The people of New Orleans move and dance and celebrate life with a rhythm and an energy that is all their own.  Once exposed to the magic of Mardi Gras, the energy and the music will seduce you.  At least for a few days, you manage to escape the hardships and drudgery and exist only for the pure joy of the moment.  Of course, you will go home to face reality again, but a piece of your soul will always wish that every other weekend were Mardi Gras.

Your heart will ache a little every year when you see the news coverage of the world’s greatest party.  Even while you remind yourself that you are busy and can’t afford the trip and it looks too crowded anyway, you will shed a little tear when you hear the horn section calling your name and swear you can smell the beignets.  Then you will remember the magic and, once again, you will know what it means to miss New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras.