Mardi Gras Survival Guide

South Louisiana is home to one of the loudest and most joyful parties in the world, a colorful celebration known as Mardi Gras. In our hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana, residents celebrate in many ways including parades with marching bands, beads, and doubloons, headlined by Mardi Gras Krewe royalty driven along the parade routes on delightfully bright and colorful floats, representing the livery and traditions of each krewe; Mardi Gras Indians with elaborate dancing and costumes; many scrumptious types and styles of king cakes; as well as extravagant Mardi Gras balls complete with kings and queens, captains and other royalty of honor. And as a special treat there is the traditional Courirs de Mardi Gras. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

We all love to host friends and family, but even if you have a local to show you around it is a great idea to be prepared, and plan ahead for the festivities of Mardi Gras. To help you with that we’ve put together our “Mardi Gras Survival Guide”.

The crowds scream as a float rides down the street during the Krewe of Bacchus Parade in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, 10 February 2013. Mardi Gras festivities will be happening all weekend long culminating with Fat Tuesday on 12 February 2013. EPA/DAN ANDERSON

When is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is always the day before Ash Wednesday, which falls exactly 46 days before Easter. Since Easter can be on any given Sunday from March 23rd through April 25th, with the exact day being the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox, that makes Mardi Gras this year fall on February 25th.

What are the official Mardi Gras colors, and What do they mean?

Even if you’ve never been down here for Mardi Gras, on your first visit looking around the masses you’ll quickly identify three dominant colors: Green, Gold, and Purple. These are the colors of Mardi Gras and they each have a special meaning:

  • Purple – Justice
  • Green – Faith
  • Gold – Power/Wealth

Why are beads and other materials thrown during the parades?

While these days a lot more is thrown than doubloons, beads, and trinkets, the tradition to do so started some 150 years ago in New Orleans where the Twelfth Night Revelers threw trinkets and beads into the crowd as they made their way along the parade route. As the years passed, the act caught on and became a tradition which has spread to every parade across South Louisiana.

While you will no doubt catch more beads than you will know what to do with no matter where you go, and no matter which parade you attend, it is always nice to show up at the party or parade, wearing your “Tuesday’s best” beads. My favorite place to purchase beads, masks, costumes, and more is Beads for Less.

Best Mardi Gras Traditions

Photo courtesy of Lafayette Travel (lafayettetravel.com)

Courirs de Mardi Gras – In the rural areas of Lafayette Parish and the surrounding areas, residents celebrate Mardi Gras with the unique “Courirs de Mardi Gras”, or Mardi Gras runs, where masked men on horseback travel the countryside knocking on doors, singing songs, dancing and begging for ingredients to make a gumbo. Many times homeowners would throw a chicken to the begging krewe and maskers would attempt to catch the bird for gumbo meat. You can read more about Courirs here: https://www.lafayettetravel.com/blog/post/dance-for-a-chicken-cajun-country-mardi-gras/

Photo courtesy of whereyat.com

King Cake – If not the tastiest, certainly the sweetest Mardi Gras tradition. A King Cake is an oblong pastry that contains a tiny plastic baby representing the baby Christ. Whoever gets the baby hidden within their slice of the king cake must buy the next one and thus perpetuate the tradition all the way until Fat Tuesday.  

Two pieces of valuable free advice I can give to anyone attending Mardi Gras for the first time are: don’t eat the plastic baby, and don’t get in the middle of the “who makes the best King Cake discussion”. Everyone has their own favorite, and trust me, they’ll do it whatever it takes to make sure you understand that their choice is the correct one.

Mardi Gras Tips and Guidelines:

  • Do not drive through or into the barricaded streets. Consequences are many and none of them bode well for you.
  • Respect the Police. They are there to protect you and make sure everything goes smoothly.
  • Respect your fellow Mardi Gras Parade goers. Remember that Mardi Gras is a celebration for everyone, and that by being obnoxious, rude, or aggressive or anything along those lines you’ll only ruin someone else’s good time, and wake up to countless regrets.
  • Wherever you’re going, make sure to leave early.  The closer we get to Mardi Gras, the greater the crowds and chances of being on time without departing early shrink quickly.
  • Respect your fellow parade goers. Bead catching is not a contact sport. There are plenty of beads for everyone.
  • Remember the kids. That bead you intercepted in front of a sad 4-year-old like you are a cornerback in a Super Bowl game will only earn you shame and misery the next day. Be kind and share the good times.

Now that you’re ready to get out and celebrate here is a list of parade and balls in Lafayette Parish for the Mardi Gras 2020 season:

Lafayette Parish

  • FEB 14 – Krewe de Canailles Walking Parade. Downtown Lafayette, 6:30 p.m. KreweDeCanailles.com.
  • FEB 15 – Carencro Mardi Gras Parade. Starts at Carencro High ends by Carencro Community Center. 11 a.m. 337-288-5589, CarencroParade.com.
  • FEB 15 – Krewe of Carnivale en Rio Mardi Gras Parade. Downtown to Cajun Field, Lafayette. 6:30 p.m. 337-984-6522, RioLafayette.com.
  • FEB 15 – Krewe des Chiens. Downtown, Lafayette. 2 p.m. 337-984-6522, KreweDesChiens.org.
  • FEB 16 – Courir de Mardi Gras – Old-Fashion Mardi Gras Run. Vermilionville, 300 Fisher Rd., Lafayette. 337-233-4077, Vermilionville.org.
  • FEB 16 – Scott Mardi Gras Parade. Scott. 1 p.m. 337-269-5155, ScottsBA.org/Mardi-Gras.
  • FEB 21-25 – Le Festival de Mardi Gras à Lafayette. Cajun Field, Lafayette. Carnival rides & games, live music, food vendors, parades roll through festival grounds. Times vary. 800-346-1958, GoMardiGras.com.
  • FEB 22 – Krewe of Bonaparte Mardi Gras Parade. Downtown to Cajun Field, Lafayette. 6:30 p.m. 800-346-1958, KreweofBonaparte.org.
  • FEB 22 – Children’s Parade. Downtown to Cajun Field, Lafayette. 12:30 p.m. 800-346-1958, GoMardiGras.com.
  • FEB 22 – Krewe of Triton Mardi Gras Ball. Cajundome, Lafayette. 6 p.m.-1 a.m. KreweOfTriton.com.
  • FEB 22 – Youngsville Mardi Gras Parade. Youngsville. Public Works building to Fountain View. 337-856-4181, Youngsville.us.
  • FEB 24 – Queen Evangeline’s Parade. Downtown to Cajun Field, Lafayette. 6 p.m. 800-346-1958, GoMardiGras.com.
  • FEB 25 – King Gabriel’s Parade. Downtown to Cajun Field, Lafayette. 10 a.m. 800-346-1958, GoMardiGras.com.
  • FEB 25 – Lafayette Mardi Gras Festival Parade. Downtown to Cajun Field, Lafayette. 1 p.m. 800-346-1958, GoMardiGras.com.
  • FEB 25 – TownSquare Media Independent Parade. Downtown to Cajun Field, Lafayette. 2:30 p.m. 337-237-1500, GoMardiGras.com.
  • FEB 25 – Southwest Mardi Gras Association Pageant & Ball. Heymann Performing Arts Center and Frem F. Boustany Convention Center, 1373 S College Rd., Lafayette. 337-291-5540, GoMardiGras.com.

The source of the above Parade list and one of my favorite sources for all things Mardi Gras is: https://www.lafayettetravel.com/events/festivals/mardi-gras/

If you would like to learn more about history of Mardi Gras and local traditions please check out: https://gomardigras.com/index.html

And of course, Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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