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Mardi Gras: The ‘Greatest Free Show on Earth’

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024homespunweb.jpgRISMEDIA, Feb. 4, 2008–New Orleans, Louisiana has long been associated with Mardi GrasÑa time to enjoy life, party and simply have a good time. Whether you are looking forward to the extravagant parades, getting dressed up in costume, or attending a ball, the fun and vibrant mood that takes over New Orleans cannot be escaped.

The History
The first Mardi Gras in North America took place under the French rule. The story goes that in 1704, France’s King Louis XIV ordered Iberville and Bienville LeMoyne to sail from France to defend their territories, which included the present day areas of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The LeMoyne brothers settled in the Mississippi Delta and named their camp “Pointe du Mardi Gras.”

Mardi Gras translates to “Fat Tuesday” in French. The first day of the Carnival season is always January 6–12 days after Christmas. This is known as the Twelfth Night, the day when the private masked balls that occur all the way through the season begin. Mardi Gras Day–February 5, 2008–is the last day of the carnival season.

The Beads
The purple, green and gold beads that have come to be an integral part of the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration are one of the newer additions to the tradition. Although this is true, the colors still hold a special significance: the purple represents justice; the green symbolizes faith; while the gold indicates power.

The Mask
Wearing a mask on Mardi Gras Day is an important tradition. This is one day in which you can be anonymous and masks can be used to express your inner secretive personality or even alter your ego. Masks are used at the parades to get the attention of float riders so that they will throw more stuff.

The Krewe
A Krewe is the organization that puts on the parade or the ball during the carnival season. The Krewe is responsible for putting together the parade and constructing the float.

The Parade
The carnival season would not be what it is today without the famous parades rolling through the streets of New Orleans. Each year, 60 parades roll through the streets during the two weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Christian season of Lent.

Each parade is organized by a Krewe and is unique to the particular traditions of the specific Krewe. Even though every Krewe follows its own rules, there are a few things that each parade has in common. For example, parades will select a King or Queen who are picked from the Krewe membership. Each parade must also have a float, which is designed around the KreweÕs particular theme for the year. More often than not, the theme will poke fun at certain cultural events.

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