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Mardi Gras 2019 Guide


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Minne Randolph



Welcome to the ultimate guide to Mardi Gras 2019! Get ready to immerse yourself in the vibrant and festive celebration that has captivated people around the world for centuries. Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, marks the culmination of Carnival season, a time of indulgence and revelry before the start of Lent.


Originating in Europe and brought to the United States by French colonists, Mardi Gras has evolved into a unique blend of cultures, with its most famous festivities taking place in New Orleans. However, this festive holiday is not limited to one location. In fact, Mardi Gras is celebrated in various forms and traditions across the globe.


In this comprehensive guide, we will take you on a thrilling journey through the history, traditions, parades, food, music, and more that make Mardi Gras a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you are planning to attend one of the iconic Mardi Gras celebrations or simply want to learn more about this cultural phenomenon, this guide has you covered.


So, grab your beads, put on your dancing shoes, and let’s dive into the spirited world of Mardi Gras!


History of Mardi Gras

The roots of Mardi Gras can be traced back to ancient pagan celebrations of fertility and the arrival of spring. The festivities were later incorporated into Christian traditions and became closely associated with the period before Lent, known as Carnival.


The first record of Mardi Gras in the United States dates back to 1699 when French explorer Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, landed near present-day New Orleans and held a small celebration on the banks of the Mississippi River. The event took place on the day of Mardi Gras, which was named by French settlers to emphasize the indulgence and excess that would precede the solemn season of Lent.


Over the years, Mardi Gras grew in popularity and became an iconic part of New Orleans’ culture. The organized parades and elaborate floats that we associate with Mardi Gras today were introduced in the mid-19th century by the city’s influential social clubs known as krewes.


Mardi Gras celebrations were briefly interrupted during the Civil War and World War I, but they resumed with even greater enthusiasm in the post-war years. Today, Mardi Gras in New Orleans draws millions of visitors from around the world, making it one of the largest and most renowned celebrations in the United States.


While the United States is widely known for its Mardi Gras festivities, countries like Brazil, Italy, and Trinidad and Tobago also have their own vibrant and unique celebrations. In Brazil, the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a world-famous event featuring samba parades and extravagant costumes. In Italy, the city of Venice hosts a lavish carnival where participants don elaborate masks and costumes for a grand masquerade. In Trinidad and Tobago, the Carnival is a colorful explosion of music, dance, and street parties.


The history of Mardi Gras is a testament to the enduring spirit of celebration and the rich cultural diversity that shapes our world. From its humble beginnings to the extravagant spectacles we see today, Mardi Gras continues to unite people in the pursuit of joy, camaraderie, and uninhibited revelry.


Key Components of Mardi Gras Celebrations

Mardi Gras is a vibrant and dynamic celebration that encompasses numerous key components that contribute to its unique identity and atmosphere. From colorful parades to delicious food and drinks, here are the essential elements that make Mardi Gras so special:

  1. Parades and Floats: One of the most iconic aspects of Mardi Gras are the extravagant parades featuring elaborate floats adorned with eye-catching decorations. The parades are organized by different krewes, social clubs or organizations, who design and build these mesmerizing floats.
  2. Beads and Throws: Mardi Gras is renowned for its tradition of throwing beads, trinkets, and other goodies from the floats to the crowds. These throws are eagerly collected by revelers and have become a symbol of Mardi Gras spirit and camaraderie.
  3. King Cake: King Cake, a delicious sweet pastry, is an integral part of Mardi Gras traditions. Decorated with colorful icing and often filled with cinnamon or other sweet fillings, the cake contains a hidden figurine or bean. The person who finds the figurine or bean is considered the “king” or “queen” of the day and is tasked with hosting the next celebration.
  4. Masks and Costumes: Mardi Gras is an opportunity for individuals to unleash their creativity and embrace their alter egos. Wearing masks and costumes is a longstanding tradition that allows people to immerse themselves in the festive spirit and become part of the elaborate pageantry of Mardi Gras.
  5. Music and Dance: Mardi Gras wouldn’t be complete without the infectious rhythms of jazz, Zydeco, and other traditional music genres. Throughout the celebrations, you can witness a multitude of spontaneous street performances, lively parades with brass bands, and lively dance parties that keep the energy high and the foot tapping.
  6. Cajun and Creole Cuisine: Mardi Gras is a time for indulgence, and that extends to the incredible selection of Cajun and Creole dishes. From gumbo and jambalaya to crawfish étouffée and beignets, the vibrant flavors of Louisiana cuisine are on full display during Mardi Gras.

These key components form the foundation of Mardi Gras celebrations, creating a festive and joyful atmosphere that draws people from all around the world. Whether you are participating in the parades, savoring delicious food, or simply immersing yourself in the vibrant music and traditions, each element contributes to the magical tapestry that is Mardi Gras.


Mardi Gras Traditions

Mardi Gras is steeped in a rich tapestry of traditions that have been passed down through generations. These traditions play a crucial role in shaping the unique character of Mardi Gras celebrations. Here are some of the most prominent Mardi Gras traditions:

  1. Masking: One of the most iconic traditions of Mardi Gras is masking, the practice of wearing masks and costumes to conceal one’s identity. This tradition dates back centuries and allows individuals to fully immerse themselves in the spirit of Mardi Gras and assume a new persona for the duration of the celebrations.
  2. Krewe Parades: The parades organized by different krewes are a central part of Mardi Gras festivities. Each krewe designs and builds elaborate floats adorned with lavish decorations and throws beads, toys, and other trinkets to the crowds. The krewes are often secret societies that maintain their own rituals and traditions.
  3. Throwing of Beads: The practice of throwing beads from the floats to the crowd has become an iconic symbol of Mardi Gras revelry. Catching these throws, especially coveted specialty beads, has become a friendly competition among attendees, adding to the excitement and joy of the celebrations.
  4. King Cake: King Cake is a sweet pastry that holds a special place in Mardi Gras traditions. Decorated with vibrant icing and often filled with sweet fillings such as cinnamon, the cake contains a hidden figurine or bean. The person who finds it is crowned the “king” or “queen” of the day and is responsible for hosting the next gathering.
  5. Second Line Parade: A beloved tradition in New Orleans, second line parades are lively musical processions led by brass bands. Participants dance, wave handkerchiefs, and twirl parasols, creating a joyous and vibrant atmosphere. Second line parades celebrate community and are often seen in various events, including weddings, funerals, and Mardi Gras.
  6. Ash Wednesday: Mardi Gras culminates on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. After the indulgence and revelry of the carnival season, many people attend church services on Ash Wednesday to receive a mark of ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance and reflection.

These traditions form the heart and soul of Mardi Gras, creating a sense of unity and cultural vibrancy. Whether it’s the elaborate floats, the spirited music and dance, or the symbolic acts like masking and the sharing of King Cake, Mardi Gras traditions are a testament to the enduring spirit of celebration and community.


Famous Mardi Gras Parades

When it comes to Mardi Gras, one cannot overlook the famous parades that have become the symbol of this festive celebration. These parades showcase larger-than-life floats, mesmerizing costumes, and a captivating display of creativity and artistry. Here are some of the most renowned Mardi Gras parades:

  1. Rex Parade: The Rex Parade, also known as the Krewe of Rex, is one of the oldest and most prestigious parades in New Orleans. The Rex organization dates back to 1872 and is responsible for selecting the “King of Carnival” who presides over Mardi Gras. The parade is known for its regal floats and traditional themes.
  2. Zulu Parade: The Zulu Parade, organized by the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, is a celebration of African-American heritage and culture. One of the highlights of the parade is the “coconut throw,” where members of the Zulu krewe hand out specially decorated coconuts to lucky attendees.
  3. Endymion Extravaganza: The Krewe of Endymion hosts one of the most spectacular parades during Mardi Gras. This superkrewe parade is known for its massive floats, celebrity Grand Marshals, and a star-studded Extravaganza event featuring live music performances and fireworks. It attracts thousands of spectators each year.
  4. Bacchus Parade: The Krewe of Bacchus is renowned for its extravagant and meticulously designed floats. The parade features celebrity guests serving as the Bacchus King, including notable personalities from the entertainment industry. Bacchus is known for its visually stunning floats that captivate spectators.
  5. Muses Parade: The Krewe of Muses is an all-female krewe that has gained popularity for its creative and intricate throws. The Muses Parade showcases uniquely designed shoes thrown from the floats, which have become highly coveted collector’s items among Mardi Gras attendees.
  6. Orpheus Parade: Founded by Harry Connick Jr., the Krewe of Orpheus is known for its glamorous parade complete with celebrity guests and elaborate floats. The Orpheus Parade boasts impressive lighting effects, live music performances, and unique themes that add a touch of grandeur to the Mardi Gras festivities.

These famous Mardi Gras parades are a testament to the creativity, artistry, and community spirit that embody the essence of the celebrations. Whether you are mesmerized by the dazzling floats, excited about catching coveted throws, or simply immersing yourself in the lively atmosphere, attending these parades is an unforgettable experience that truly captures the magic of Mardi Gras.


Mardi Gras Food and Drinks

Mardi Gras is not just a feast for the senses but also a feast for the taste buds. The celebration is synonymous with indulgent and flavorful foods that reflect the rich culinary traditions of Louisiana. Here are some of the delectable dishes and drinks that are synonymous with Mardi Gras:

  1. Gumbo: A signature Louisiana dish, gumbo is a hearty soup that is typically made with a thick roux, shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage, and a variety of vegetables and spices. It is often served over rice and is known for its rich and complex flavors.
  2. Jambalaya: Jambalaya is a Creole rice dish that combines meat (such as sausage, chicken, or shrimp), vegetables, and spices, cooked together to create a flavorful one-pot meal. It is often spiced with cayenne pepper, paprika, and other Cajun seasonings.
  3. King Cake: No Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a slice of King Cake. This sweet and colorful pastry is usually decorated with icing in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. It is often filled with cinnamon or other sweet fillings and sometimes contains a hidden figurine or bean.
  4. Crawfish Étouffée: Crawfish étouffée is a classic Louisiana dish made with butter, onions, bell peppers, and a richly seasoned sauce. The crawfish tails are cooked in the flavorful sauce and served over rice, creating a delicious and comforting dish that is beloved during Mardi Gras.
  5. Beignets: Beignets are delicate, deep-fried pastries sprinkled with powdered sugar. These fluffy treats are a staple of New Orleans cuisine and are often enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee. Beignets are perfect for indulging in a little bit of sweetness during the Mardi Gras festivities.
  6. Hurricanes: When it comes to Mardi Gras libations, Hurricanes are a popular choice. This fruity and rum-based cocktail is notorious for its vibrant color and is often served in tall glasses garnished with fruit slices. Sipping on a Hurricane adds an extra layer of festivity to your Mardi Gras experience.

These mouthwatering dishes and drinks are an essential part of the Mardi Gras experience. From the spicy and comforting flavors of gumbo and jambalaya to the sweet indulgence of King Cake and beignets, the culinary delights of Mardi Gras are sure to satisfy both food enthusiasts and revelers alike.


Costume and Masking at Mardi Gras

One of the most captivating aspects of Mardi Gras is the tradition of costume and masking. This practice allows individuals to fully embrace the festive spirit and become a part of the vibrant pageantry that defines Mardi Gras celebrations. Here is a look at the significance and traditions associated with costume and masking at Mardi Gras:


Costumes and masks have been an integral part of Mardi Gras since its early beginnings. The tradition of masking traces back to ancient pagan rituals, where masks were worn to ward off evil spirits and to assume different identities during celebrations. Today, people of all ages participate in this tradition, creating elaborate and unique costumes that reflect their creativity and imagination.


Masks play a prominent role in Mardi Gras as they allow individuals to conceal their identities and let loose during the festivities. They provide a sense of anonymity, giving people the freedom to fully immerse themselves in the joyous atmosphere without inhibition. From ornate feathered masks to mysterious Venetian-style masks, there is a wide variety to choose from, allowing individuals to express their personal style and add an element of intrigue to their appearance.


Costumes at Mardi Gras are vibrant, eye-catching, and often reflect the festive spirit of the occasion. Attendees can be seen adorned in colorful outfits, feathers, sequins, and beads, creating a visually stunning spectacle throughout the celebrations. Many revelers opt for thematic costumes that pay homage to traditional Mardi Gras themes, such as jesters, kings and queens, mythological characters, or historical figures.


Participating in costume and masking at Mardi Gras is not limited to individual attendees. Many krewes, the social clubs or organizations that organize the parades and festivities, have their own unique costumes and masks associated with their themes. These krewes create cohesive and visually striking ensembles, enhancing the overall spectacle and adding to the visual richness of the parades.


Costume and masking at Mardi Gras create an inclusive and celebratory environment. It allows people from all walks of life to shed their everyday identities and immerse themselves in the vibrant and playful ambiance of the festivities. It is a way of celebrating individuality, creativity, and the spirit of unity that Mardi Gras fosters.


So, whether you choose to wear a traditional mask, a dazzling costume, or a combination of both, costume and masking at Mardi Gras provides an opportunity to unleash your imagination and join in the colorful tapestry of this exhilarating celebration.


Mardi Gras Music and Dance

Mardi Gras is not just about the vibrant costumes, elaborate parades, and delicious food—it’s also a celebration of music and dance. The rhythmic beats and infectious melodies that fill the air during Mardi Gras are an essential part of the festivities. Let’s explore the role of music and dance in creating the energetic atmosphere of Mardi Gras:


Mardi Gras music is deeply rooted in the cultural heritage of New Orleans and Louisiana. Jazz, a genre that originated in the early 20th century in New Orleans, is synonymous with Mardi Gras. The swinging rhythms, lively improvisation, and soulful melodies of jazz perfectly capture the spirit of celebration and revelry. Throughout the streets of New Orleans, you’ll encounter live brass bands performing energetic and uplifting music that gets everyone dancing.


Zydeco is another genre closely associated with Mardi Gras. Originating from the Creole community of Southwest Louisiana, Zydeco blends elements of blues, rhythm and blues, and traditional French Creole music. The accordion, washboard, and fiddle are common instruments used in Zydeco, creating a lively and rhythmic sound that invites people to move their feet and join the dance floor.


Second line parades are a pinnacle of Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans. Led by marching bands, these parades see participants dancing, waving handkerchiefs, and twirling parasols as they follow the musicians through the streets. Second line parades originated from traditional funeral processions but have evolved into joyous celebrations of music, dance, and community.


Mardi Gras Indians add another layer of cultural richness to the music and dance traditions of Mardi Gras. These African-American tribes, known as “tribes” or “gangs,” don vibrant and elaborate costumes as they parade through the streets, showcasing their magnificent hand-sewn suits and performing rhythmic chants and dances.


When it comes to Mardi Gras, dancing is not limited to parades and organized events. Throughout the celebrations, you’ll find people spontaneously dancing in the streets, at parties, and in bars. Whether it’s the lively steps of the Cajun two-step or the hip-shaking moves of the Zydeco, Mardi Gras is a time for revelers to let loose, move their bodies, and celebrate with unabashed joy.


Music and dance are the lifeblood of Mardi Gras, infusing the celebration with energy, rhythm, and a sense of collective enjoyment. From the soulful sounds of jazz to the infectious beats of Zydeco, the music of Mardi Gras reflects the cultural diversity and heritage of the region. So, when you join the crowd at Mardi Gras, don’t forget to tap your feet, sway your hips, and let the music guide you into the heart of this joyous celebration.


Mardi Gras in Different Countries

Mardi Gras, the celebratory season preceding Lent, isn’t limited to just one location. While the carnival celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, are widely known, Mardi Gras is celebrated in various forms and traditions across different countries. Let’s take a journey around the world to explore how Mardi Gras is celebrated in different countries:


Brazil: In Brazil, the city of Rio de Janeiro takes center stage with its world-renowned Carnival. The festivities feature elaborate parades, samba dancing, vibrant costumes, and street parties. The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a spectacle of music, dance, and exuberance, attracting visitors from all corners of the globe.


Italy: Venice hosts a grand carnival known for its opulent masquerade balls and masked processions. The city comes alive with elaborate costumes, elegant masks, and breathtaking scenery. Venetian masquerade masks, with their intricate designs and artistic details, add a touch of mystery and allure to the celebration.


Trinidad and Tobago: The Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is a dazzling explosion of color, music, and revelry. A fusion of African, Indian, and European influences, the celebrations showcase elaborate costumes, vibrant street parades, and infectious calypso and soca music. The country’s Carnival is renowned for its steel pan orchestras and energetic competitions among costumed bands.


Germany: In Germany, Mardi Gras is known as Karneval and is celebrated with parades, parties, and masked processions. The city of Cologne is particularly famous for its vibrant street carnival, featuring colorfully decorated floats and lively music. The celebrations often culminate in the tradition of “Rosenmontag,” or Rose Monday, where a large parade winds its way through the city.


Haiti: In Haiti, Mardi Gras is known as “Kanaval.” The celebrations are a fusion of African, French, and Creole traditions, featuring vibrant street parades, traditional music, and stunning carnival costumes. The festivities in Haiti are known for their unique blend of spirituality, folklore, and cultural heritage.


Mardi Gras may have its origins in Europe and specifically in Catholic traditions, but its assimilation into different cultures has led to unique and diverse celebrations. Each country puts its own spin on the festivities, reflecting the local customs, music, and cultural traditions. Whether it’s the samba rhythms of Brazil, the elegant masquerade balls of Italy, or the pulsating beats of soca music in Trinidad and Tobago, Mardi Gras showcases the multicultural tapestry of these countries.


So, whether you find yourself in the heart of the New Orleans festivities or in another corner of the world, experiencing Mardi Gras in different countries offers a glimpse into the rich diversity of global celebrations and the universal joy of letting loose and celebrating life.


Safety Tips for Mardi Gras Celebrations

Mardi Gras is a celebration filled with joy, excitement, and lively festivities. While the atmosphere is one of revelry and merriment, it’s essential to ensure that safety remains a top priority. Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind during Mardi Gras celebrations:

  1. Stay hydrated: Mardi Gras festivities can be long and energetic, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated throughout the day. Carry a water bottle with you and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, especially if you’re participating in parades or spending time outdoors.
  2. Keep valuables safe: Mardi Gras attracts large crowds, making it important to keep your personal belongings secure. Avoid carrying excessive cash or valuable items, and consider using a secure bag or wallet with good closures to prevent theft. Be mindful of your surroundings and avoid flashing expensive belongings.
  3. Choose reliable transportation: If you’re attending Mardi Gras in an unfamiliar city, research and plan your transportation in advance. Consider using reliable modes of public transportation or reputable rideshare services to get around. Avoid walking alone late at night and stay in well-lit, populated areas.
  4. Be aware of your alcohol consumption: Mardi Gras often involves indulging in alcoholic beverages, but it’s important to drink responsibly. Pace yourself and stay within your limits. Avoid drinking and driving by designating a sober driver or using alternative transportation options.
  5. Stay with your group: If you’re attending Mardi Gras with a group of friends or family, stick together throughout the celebrations. It’s easy to get separated in the crowds, so establish a meeting point and time to regroup if you do become separated.
  6. Be mindful of your surroundings: Mardi Gras can be bustling and crowded, so be aware of your surroundings at all times. Pickpocketing can be common in crowded areas, so keep an eye on your belongings and be cautious when interacting with strangers.
  7. Wear comfortable shoes: With parades, dancing, and walking throughout the festivities, comfortable footwear is essential. Opt for sturdy, closed-toe shoes that provide good support and traction to prevent discomfort or accidents while navigating the crowded streets.
  8. Use sunscreen and protect yourself from the sun: Mardi Gras often takes place outdoors, so it’s crucial to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Apply sunscreen before heading out, wear a hat, and consider wearing lightweight, breathable clothing to protect yourself from sunburn and overheating.
  9. Follow the rules and instructions: Mardi Gras has its own set of rules and guidelines for attendees. Pay attention to signs, instructions from law enforcement officers, and parade officials. Respect any barriers or roped-off areas and avoid crossing safety boundaries for your own wellbeing.

By keeping these safety tips in mind, you can fully enjoy the spirit of Mardi Gras while ensuring your wellbeing and the safety of those around you. Remember, Mardi Gras is a time for celebration, camaraderie, and vibrant experiences, so stay safe, be responsible, and make unforgettable memories during this festive season.



Mardi Gras is a celebration like no other, a vibrant tapestry of music, dance, food, costumes, and traditions that come together to create a joyful and unforgettable experience. From the history and origins of Mardi Gras to the famous parades, delicious food, and lively music, there is something for everyone to enjoy during this festive season.


Whether you find yourself in the streets of New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, or Venice, or experiencing the unique celebrations of Mardi Gras in different countries, the spirit of unity, creativity, and celebration prevails. Mardi Gras provides an opportunity to let loose, embrace your alter ego, and revel in the joyous atmosphere that surrounds you.


Amidst the excitement, it’s important to prioritize safety, stay hydrated, and be mindful of your surroundings. By taking these precautions, you can fully immerse yourself in the festivities without compromising your wellbeing.


Mardi Gras is a celebration that transcends cultures, bringing people together in a shared experience of celebration and joy. It is a testament to the diversity and resilience of communities worldwide. Whether you are a local or a visitor, Mardi Gras offers a chance to create lasting memories, forge new friendships, and celebrate the rich cultural heritage that makes this world so captivating.


So, as the music fills the air, the floats pass by in a whirlwind of color, and the aromas of delicious cuisine waft through the streets, embrace the spirit of Mardi Gras. Dance with abandon, don a vibrant costume, and surround yourself with the infectious energy of this extraordinary celebration. Mardi Gras is a true testament to the power of festivities, showcasing the beauty of traditions and the unifying force of shared revelry.