History FAQs


1: Do I need tickets?

There is no need for tickets to see a parade...all of them are FREE!! That is why it is called "The Greatest Free Show on Earth!". You only get tickets if you want to sit down on stands as the parades pass.

New Orleans Parade Stands

2: Are Carnival and Mardi Gras the same thing?

Technically, "Carnival" refers to the period of feasting and fun that begins on January 6 (see question below) and ends on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), the final day of revelry before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. It is also common for people to refer to the entire season as Mardi Gras and, for clarity, to call Fat Tuesday "Mardi Gras Day." Locals tend to call the season "Carnival" and, to us, the last two weekends leading up to Tuesday are"Mardi Gras."

3: What is Twelfth Night? 

Twelfth Night (aka, Twelfth Night, the Feast of the Epiphany, the Epiphany Eve and Three Kings' Day) is celebrated on January 6th. It is considered the last day of Christmas festivities around the world (when Christmas decorations come down). Shakespeare named one of his romantic comedies after this Christian holiday that takes place on the last day of the twelfth day of Christmas. Here in New Orleans, January 6th is the official start of the Carnival season every year with the first parades rolling on this day. It is also considered the beginning of king cake season. While the date of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) changes, Twelfth Night does not. According to Wikipedia, different traditions mark the date of Twelfth Night as either January 5 or January 6 (it depends on whether they start counting the twelve days on December 25 or 26). Learn more.

4: When was the first Mardi Gras?

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.

Mardi Gras Dates

5: What is the significance of the Mardi Gras colors, and where did they come from?

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.

Mardi Gras Colors

6: Why are masks worn?

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.

7: How is a king chosen?

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.

8: How long have "throws" been around?

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.

Mardi Gras Throws

9: How does Mardi Gras benefit the New Orleans economy?

Economic impact reports indicate that Mardi Gras generates over $1 billion in annual spending.

10: How is the City government involved?

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.

11: Who organizes and pays for Mardi Gras?

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.

12: Who first broadcast Mardi Gras LIVE on the Internet?

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

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