History & Culture of Mardi Gras
There are many opportunities for people to learn about the history, tradition, and culture surrounding Mardi Gras.
The first recorded Mardi Gras celebration in the United States was held in Mobile, Alabama in 1703, but it was not until the late 19th century that the festival took off in New Orleans. In 1857, a group of New Orleans businessmen formed the Mistick Krewe of Comus, which held the first modern-style Mardi Gras parade in 1858.
Mardi Gras traditions include wearing masks and costumes, throwing beads and other trinkets, and plenty of great food and drinking. The celebrations begin on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.
Over the years, Mardi Gras has evolved into a multicultural celebration that reflects the diversity of New Orleans and its surrounding areas. Let’s start with where to go for Mardi Gras. Of course, you can’t celebrate Mardi Gras without visiting New Orleans! Large, in charge, and over the top, New Orleans continues to embody deep traditions in its essence.
Next, you’ll want to find a great spot to enjoy signature Louisiana dishes, like gumbo and Jambalaya. Jambalaya is a delicious rice dish with shrimp, chicken, and sausage. It’s served with grilled corn on the cob, which gives it a nice smoked flavor. Gumbo, on the other hand, is a savory soup made with meat and seafood and served over rice. You can find these staples at popular restaurants like Commander’s Palace, Acme Oyster House, The Pelican Club — or any restaurant within the French Quarter!
In addition to gumbo and jambalaya, Mardi Gras cannot be complete without King Cake. This sweet, fried pastry is topped with a plastic doll (a symbol of luck and prosperity) and filled with cinnamon and cream cheese frosting. It’s traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday and can be found in nearly every bakery across New Orleans, including Manny Randazzo's King Cakes and La Boulangerie. However, if you want to enjoy King Cake with a NOLA twist, we highly recommend the Chantilly King Cake from Bywater Bakery.
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