History and Tradition FAQs
- Are Carnival and Mardi Gras the same thing?
- When was the first Mardi Gras?
- What is the significance of the Mardi Gras colors, and where did they come from?
- Why are masks worn?
- How is a king chosen?
- How long have "throws" been around?
- How does Mardi Gras benefit the New Orleans economy?
- How is the City government involved?
- Who organizes and pays for Mardi Gras?
- Who first broadcasted Mardi Gras LIVE on the Internet?
History and Tradition FAQs Answers
Don't confuse Carnival and Mardi Gras! Carnival refers to the period of feasting and fun that begins on Jan. 6, The Feast of the Epiphany. Mardi Gras refers to Fat Tuesday, the final day of revelry before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins.
The first Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans on Feb. 24, 1857 by the Krewe of Comus. They began the tradition of presenting a parade with floats and following it with a ball for the krewe and their guests.
Rex, the King of Carnival, selected the Mardi Gras colors and assigned meaning to them in 1892. Purple stands for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.
By law, float riders must always have a mask on. On Fat Tuesday, masking is legal for everyone else, and the elaborate masks that some wear add to the fun.
The method of selecting a king varies from krewe to krewe. Some krewes hold random drawings, while others invite a celebrity guest to be their king. Rex, the King of Carnival, is chosen by the School of Design, who sponsors the Rex parade. His identity is revealed the day before the parade.
The tradition of float riders throwing trinkets to the crowds began in the 1870s, and continues today. Typical throws include beads, cups, doubloons and stuffed animals.
Economic impact reports indicate that Mardi Gras generates over $1 billion in annual spending.
City governments are not involved in coordinating Mardi Gras parades. The governments issue parade permits, but that is the extent of their involvement. Krewes independently schedule and coordinate their own parades.
Mardi Gras parade krewes are private, non-profit organizations whose members get together year round to plan their parade's theme, costumes and unique throws. Each Carnival Club, as they are known, is individually funded by its members. They support their krewe through dues, sales of krewe-related merchandise to their members, and fundraising. Mardi Gras parade krewes sometimes have corporate sponsors.
The city of New Orleans is not involved in coordinating Mardi Gras parades; their only involvement is to issue parade permits to each individual Mardi Gras krewe that schedules and coordinates its own parade.
MardiGrasNewOrleans.com, of course. We organized and presented the first live Mardi Gras in 1995 and continued sharing this with our visitors for several years with companies like Microsoft and REAL Media. The live events showcased on MardiGrasNewOrleans.com have been covered by the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, TImes PIcayune, Morning Advocate, San Diego Union Tribune, Texas Monthly, and the Discovery Channel among others.
The first year, we presented the Orpheuscapade, and soon offered live chats with celebrities, interviews with costumed revelers on the streets, and video from atop hotels in the Garden District.
Mardi Gras Live