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10 Things You Might Not Know About Mardi Gras

What is Mardi Gras? Do you know the meaning of krewe? Or where to get one-of-a-kind beads? Check out this countdown of 10 things you should know about Mardi Gras to make your Carnival the best!

Mardi Gras. Two little words with an infinitely large explanation. For different people, it's different things—an event, an idea, a day, a way of life, a piece of history, a state holiday, or a million parades and countless memories. Think you know Mardi Gras? That it's all about booze and beads? Think again!

10. Carnival is a season; Mardi Gras is a day. Sure, we all do it. We say, "Yeah, I'm going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras!" when we're actually going to see parades the weekend before Mardi Gras or the weekend before that. Technically, Mardi Gras is the last Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and ushers in 40 days of best behavior during Lent, while Carnival is the season that begins on the Feast of Epiphany. A krewe (pronounced crew) is an organization that puts on a parade and/or a ball for the Carnival season.

9. Your dog will love Mardi Gras. Dogs just want to have fun! And that's what they get at their very own parade in New Orleans, the Krewe of Barkus.

8. Mardi Gras is for families. Got kids? Watch parades with local families in New Orleans' favorite family parade-watching spots—including St. Charles and Napoleon Streets—where turning parades take a bit longer, leaving extra time to get more goodies. Also try St. Charles at 3rd or 4th Street, conveniently close to the Garden District, which would be a short venture for the kiddos. Get the full guide of family-friendly Mardi Gras activities.

7. The best ways to get parade goods aren't always obvious. Sure, you could say, "Throw me something, mister!" or you could stick your cute kid on your shoulders. But if you really want to test your suitcases' weight limit, head to the end of the parade. You'll be showered by effervescent float-riders with a single goal: chuck off all remaining bags of beads before they get off the float themselves.

6. You never know what they'll throw. Bathroom humor never grows old, as evidenced by the irreverent joy of Krewe of Tucks riders in their giant toilet bowl float! The screaming crowds line the street begging for their bathroom-themed throws, including monogrammed toilet paper, sunglasses shaped like toilets, mini-plungers and more. In Shreveport, we love the Krewe of Highland, who throw Spam and hot dogs. Anyone can come home with beads; only those in-the-know get miniature squirting toilets and dinner.

5. The best parades aren't necessarily the biggest. You can't get any smaller than 'tit Rex, known as "New Orleans' first and only MicroKrewe." This krewe, founded in 2009, features miniature floats made from shoeboxes and found objects. Carnival throws are handed out by krewe members rather than tossed, since—in keeping with the theme of the parade—they are so tiny.

4. Why do we throw beads at Mardi Gras? Legend has it in the 1880s, a man dressed like Santa Claus received such fame throwing beads that other krewes followed suit. Makes sense, seeing before that krewes threw any manner of items—including food and dirt. Today krewes buy plastic beads en masse, which paradegoers prefer over dirt! Locals still love to see throws of tiny glass bead strands, which are rare and seemed to have phased out in the 1960s and 1970s.

3. The weight of revelry. Think your suitcase is heavy? Officials estimate upward of 25 million pounds of Mardi Gras items get tossed from floats—more than half of which wind up on New Orleans' streets. In fact, locals like to visit ARC of New Orleans and recycle their beads for next year.

2. Mardi Gras is a legal holiday. It really is! Despite the preponderance of what might seem like illegal activity, Mardi Gras is a legal holiday in Louisiana—and has been since 1875, when Governor Warmoth signed the Mardi Gras Act.

1. Mardi Gras is more than New Orleans. When you hear Mardi Gras do you think New Orleans? Think again. Shreveport makes the list, closer to Texas. Get your Mardi Gras groove on at the Cajun Mardi Gras in Lafayette or go dance at a Baton Rouge Mardi Gras ball. Next, head to family-friendly Mardi Gras in Alexandria or over to Lake Charles for their Mardi Gras celebrations. All year-round check out the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu in Lake Charles or Mardi Gras World in New Orleans to see real floats, costumes and everything Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is also celebrated all over the world, including many locations in Europe and massive celebrations are found in Brazil every year!

Written by Sara Hudson, courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism.

Photo courtesy of Travis Gauthier.

This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at Louisiana Travel.


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