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Arrival of Rex, monarch of Mardi Gras, as seen on an early 20th-century postcard Rex, presented with freedom of the city; early 20th century postcard Rex in procession down Canal Street; postcard from around Mardi Gras maskers; circa postcard The Rex pageant, Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans, La.

Iberville , Bienville , and their men celebrated it as part of an observance of Catholic practice. The date of the first celebration of the festivities in New Orleans is unknown. A account by Marc-Antione Caillot celebrating with music and dance , masking and costuming including cross-dressing. Processions and wearing of masks in the streets on Mardi Gras took place. They were sometimes prohibited by law, and were quickly renewed whenever such restrictions were lifted or enforcement waned.

In Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville , a rich plantation owner of French descent, raised money to fund an official Mardi Gras celebration. All of the mischief of the city is alive and wide awake in active operation. Men and boys, women and girls, bond and free, white and black, yellow and brown, exert themselves to invent and appear in grotesque, quizzical, diabolic, horrible, strange masks, and disguises.

According to one historian, "Comus was aggressively English in its celebration of what New Orleans had always considered a French festival. It is hard to think of a clearer assertion than this parade that the lead in the holiday had passed from French-speakers to Anglo-Americans.

Thus the wonder of Anglo-Americans boasting of how their business prowess helped them construct a more elaborate version than was traditional. The lead in organized Carnival passed from Creole to American just as political and economic power did over the course of the nineteenth century. The spectacle of Creole-American Carnival, with Americans using Carnival forms to compete with Creoles in the ballrooms and on the streets, represents the creation of a New Orleans culture neither entirely Creole nor entirely American.

Major parades now skirt the French Quarter along Canal Street. In the New Orleans police department went on strike. The official parades were canceled or moved to surrounding communities, such as Jefferson Parish. Significantly fewer tourists than usual came to the city.

Masking, costuming, and celebrations continued anyway, with National Guard troops maintaining order. In the New Orleans City Council passed an ordinance that required social organizations, including Mardi Gras Krewes, to certify publicly that they did not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, to obtain parade permits and other public licenses.

In protest—and because the city claimed the parade gave it jurisdiction to demand otherwise-private membership lists—the 19th-century krewes Comus and Momus stopped parading. Several organizations brought suit against the city, challenging the law as unconstitutional. Two federal courts later declared that the ordinance was an unconstitutional infringement on First Amendment rights of free association, and an unwarranted intrusion on the privacy of the groups subject to the ordinance.

Today, New Orleans krewes operate under a business structure; membership is open to anyone who pays dues, and any member can have a place on a parade float. Mayor Nagin , who was up for reelection in early , tried to play this sentiment for electoral advantage[ citation needed ]. The city government, essentially bankrupt after Hurricane Katrina, pushed for a scaled back celebration to limit strains on city services.

However, many krewes insisted that they wanted to and would be ready to parade, so negotiations between krewe leaders and city officials resulted in a compromise schedule.

It was scaled back but less severely than originally suggested. A Knights of Chaos float satirizes the U. Parades followed daily from Thursday night through Mardi Gras. Other than Krewe du Vieux and two Westbank parades going through Algiers, all New Orleans parades were restricted to the Saint Charles Avenue Uptown to Canal Street route, a section of the city which escaped significant flooding. Some krewes unsuccessfully pushed to parade on their traditional Mid-City route, despite the severe flood damage suffered by that neighborhood.

The city restricted how long parades could be on the street and how late at night they could end. National Guard troops assisted with crowd control for the first time since Louisiana State troopers also assisted, as they have many times in the past. Many floats had been partially submerged in floodwaters for weeks. While some krewes repaired and removed all traces of these effects, others incorporated flood lines and other damage into the designs of the floats.

Many had lost most or all of their possessions, but enthusiasm for Carnival was even more intense as an affirmation of life. The themes of many costumes and floats had more barbed satire than usual, with commentary on the trials and tribulations of living in the devastated city. By the season, the Endymion parade had returned to the Mid-City route, and other Krewes expanding their parades Uptown.

The colors traditionally associated with Mardi Gras in New Orleans are green , gold , and purple. The colors were first specified in proclamations by the Rex organization during the lead-up to their inaugural parade in , suggesting that balconies be draped in banners of these colors.

It is unknown why these specific colors were chosen; some accounts suggest that they were initially selected solely on their aesthetic appeal, as opposed to any true symbolism. Furthermore, he noted that a flag in green, gold and purple in that order complies with the rule of tincture , which states that metals gold or silver can only be placed on or next to other colors, and that colors cannot be placed on or next to other colors. The traditional colors are commonly addressed as purple, green, and gold, in that order—even though this order violates the rule of tincture.

Days leading up to Mardi Gras Day[ edit ] The population of New Orleans more than doubles during the five days before Mardi Gras Day, in anticipation of the biggest celebration. Nyx is famous for their highly decorated purses, and has reached Super Krewe status since their founding in The parade is relatively new, but its membership has tripled since its start in It is popular for its throws highly sought-after decorated shoes and other trinkets and themes poking fun at politicians and celebrities.

The first of the "super krewes," Endymion , parades on Saturday night, with the celebrity-led Bacchus parade on Sunday night This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Dating to , it is the second-oldest krewe still parading.

The Proteus parade is followed by a newer organization, the music-themed super- Krewe of Orpheus , which is considered less prestigious as it draws a significant portion of its membership from outside of New Orleans.

A number of smaller parading organizations with "truck floats" follow the Rex parade. Numerous smaller parades and walking clubs also parade around the city.

Various groups of Mardi Gras Indians , divided into uptown and downtown tribes, parade in their finery. Costumes and masks[ edit ] Reveler, Mardi Gras morning in the Bywater neighborhood , In New Orleans, costumes and masks are seldom publicly worn by non-Krewe members on the days before Fat Tuesday other than at parties , but are frequently worn on Mardi Gras. Banks are closed, and some businesses and other places with security concerns such as convenience stores post signs asking people to remove their masks before entering.

Beads[ edit ] Mardi Gras beads Inexpensive strings of beads and toys have been thrown from floats to parade-goers since at least the late 19th century. Until the s, the most common form was multi-colored strings of glass beads made in Czechoslovakia. Glass beads were supplanted by less expensive and more durable plastic beads, first from Hong Kong , then from Taiwan , and more recently from China. Lower-cost beads and toys allow float-riders to purchase greater quantities, and throws have become more numerous and common.

In the s, many people lost interest in small, cheap beads, often leaving them where they landed on the ground. Larger, more elaborate metallic beads and strands with figures of animals, people, or other objects have become the sought-after throws.

Made in China , follows the production and distribution of beads from a small factory in Fuzhou , China to the streets of New Orleans during Carnival. With the advent of the 21st century, more sophisticated throws began to replace simple metallic beads. Krewes started to produce limited edition beads and plush toys that are unique to the krewe. Fiber optic beads and LED-powered prizes are now among the most sought-after items. In a retro-inspired twist, glass beads have returned to parades. Now made in India, glass beads are one of the most valuable throws.

The two main Mardi Gras parades, Zulu and Rex, are both social club parades. Zulu is a mostly African-American club and Rex is mostly Caucasian. Social clubs host Mardi Gras balls, starting in late January.

At these social balls, the queen of the parade usually a young woman between the ages of 18 and 21, not married and in high school or college and the king an older male member of the club present themselves and their court of maids young women aged 16 to 21 , and different divisions of younger children with small roles in the ball and parade, such as a theme-beformal neighborhood Carnival club ball at local bar room. Women and girls must have dress fittings as early as the May before the parade, as the season of social balls allows little time between each parade.

These balls are generally by invitation only. Balls are held at a variety of venues in the city, large and small, depending on the size and budget of the organization. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the French Opera House was a leading venue for New Orleans balls. In more recent years, most are at the ballrooms of various hotels throughout the city. Doubloons[ edit ] One of the many Mardi Gras throws which krewes fling into the crowds, doubloons are large coins, either wood or metal, made in Mardi Gras colors.

Alvin Sharpe created the modern doubloon for The School of Design the actual name of the Rex organization. According to the krewe history, in January Sharpe arrived at the offices of the captain of the krewe with a handful of aluminum discs. Royalty and members of the court may throw specialty doubloons, such as the special Riding Lieutenant doubloons given out by men on horseback in the Rex parade.

In the last decade, krewes have minted doubloons specific to each float. They never throw these from the floats. Original Rex doubloons are valuable, but it is nearly impossible for aficionados to find a certified original doubloon. The School of Design did not begin dating their doubloons until a few years after their introduction. Carriers with lit flambeaux on Napoleon Avenue, just before the start of a parade, Flambeau carriers[ edit ] The flambeau "flahm-bo" meaning flame-torch carrier originally, before electric lighting, served as a beacon for New Orleans parade goers to better enjoy the spectacle of night parades.

The first flambeau carriers were slaves. Today, the flambeaux are a connection to the New Orleans version of Carnival and a valued contribution. Many people view flambeau-carrying as a kind of performance art — a valid assessment given the wild gyrations and flourishes displayed by experienced flambeau carriers in a parade.

Many individuals are descended from a long line of carriers. Flambeaux are powered by naphtha [ citation needed ], a highly flammable aromatic. It is a tradition, when the flambeau carriers pass by during a parade, to toss quarters to them in thanks for carrying the lights of Carnival. In the 21st century, though, handing dollar bills is common.

Rex[ edit ] Each year in New Orleans, krewes are responsible for electing Rex , the king of the carnival. The Rex motto is, "Pro Bono Publico—for the public good. The coconut was thrown as a cheap alternative, especially in when the bead throws were made of glass.

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