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Quick Guide to Mardi Gras

By Carrie Dow

Looking to cross off some bucket list events for the New Year? Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a great place to start, but is not necessarily the bacchanal most people outside Louisiana think it is. Here’s a quick guide to the “real” Mardi Gras that may help dispel some of the biggest myths.

Falling on February 12, 2013, Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French and its origins are traced to medieval Europe. The event’s origins are with European Catholics who prepared to fast for Lent by binging on their remaining stored winter foods in the days before Ash Wednesday.

A quick guide to Mardi Gras

Over the centuries, these binges turned into parties and were spread to the colonies around the world. Mardi Gras took hold in New Orleans because of its roots as a French Colony. Today New Orleans is epicenter of Mardi Gras celebrations in the States.

However, having the biggest party in North America comes with a few bad apples. The event is best known for “bead flashing” and drunkenness., the official website of Mardi Gras, wants to dispel those myths for those looking for fun without the crass.

“We try to remember what Mardi Gras has always been in this predominantly Catholic/Christian city – the last day before Ash Wednesday, when we receive ashes and begin 40 days of sacrifice in the imitation of our Lord.”

Myth #1 – “Flashing” for Beads – Floats along the parade route throw trinkets to the crowd, the most prized possessions being golden coconuts and shiny doubloons. Since people will do anything for swag, women have resorted to flashing, or baring their breasts, to get them. However, says this is not necessary.

“No woman should do something they don’t want to do and they might even get arrested for doing so.” If a crew member wants to toss some shiny stuff your way, they will. Simply holler and wave and for goodness sake keep your shirt on.

Myth #2 – Drunken Fools – Many a You Tube video or Facebook photo shows an inebriated reveler during Mardi Gras; Spring Break students and the like imbibing just a little too much.

The website says these things are not part of the parades, which take place outside the French Quarter in various regions of the city such as Metairie, Slidell, Uptown and Westbank. Most parades are family events featuring picnics, marching bands and colorful floats, some with celebrities.

The drunks featured on the evening news can be found mostly on Bourbon Street, where open-containers of alcohol on the sidewalk are legal, long after the kids have gone to bed.

Mardi Gras parades start three weeks prior to Ash Wednesday, on Saturday, January 29.

These events will take a break when New Orleans hosts the Superbowl from January 28 to February 3. The final week of Mardi Gras features five parades on Saturday, February 9, six parades on Sunday, February 10, four parades on Monday, February 11 and a whopping eight parades on Fat Tuesday starting bright and early at 8 a.m. For a full schedule of events, visit

Mardi Gras Hotel Deals

As the country’s biggest and most famous party, it comes as little surprise that hotels sell out and deals can be hard to find. Never fear, DealAngel is here to help. Check our hotel deals for New Orleans here.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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