Most people outside of New Orleans and Mobile think that Mardi Gras is just a single day. In reality, it is a full season, which starts on January 6th. In the Catholic calendar this is the Epiphany. Carnival, as the season is known, runs from the Epiphany to Fat Tuesday; the duration of Carnival depends on the year and when Easter falls (which is based on a complicated formula involving the vernal equinox and the full moon).
So while the rest of you recover from the winter holidays after New Years has come and gone, those of us down here still have at least six weeks of feasting, partying and parading to endure. The Winter holidays and the New Year is really just how we warm up for Carnival.
There are several early parades, like the Joan of Arc parade, but the first big parade night is Krewe du Vieux and Krewe Delusion…two parades that are still completely DIY and mule operated. Before mechanical engines were created, mules pulled all the floats. While the other parades now have tractor pulled, professionally created floats, Krewe du Vieux and Krewe Delusion use mules and hand make everything. (There are other DIY parades, but they are smaller parades and not considered to stand amongst the major contenders).
For me, these two parades are the best representation of the spirit of both Carnival and of New Orleans herself. They always satire the politics of the city and the state and are completely bawdy, inappropriate and risque! They have some of the most amazing costumes, and when you watch them march past, it’s like watching a mile long procession of chaos and noise. These parades mean so much to those of us who live here.
My wonderful thesis advisor, Dr. Catherine Loomis, shared a story with me about why KdV is so important to her. I think her story shows you how the locals see and feel about this parade and why its such a beloved and well attended event:
In 2006, which you might remember was a very precarious Mardi Gras, we were waiting for the parade to start, and we all knew if it didn’t go well, that was it: the city was finished. So there we are, cocktails in hand, and the first float comes around the corner. And it catches on the bumper of a car, and the mule panics, and rears, and falls over dead. And all of us just lost it. It was everything that had gone wrong in nola in visible form. So we’re crying, and the mule’s owner is crying, and the police are calling for the horse removal machine (every parade has to have one on call) and the horse removal machine arrives—and the mule stands up! He wasn’t dead! And that’s how a bunch of English professors figured out that the city was going to be alright.
These were the first parades I ever attended, and each year they just get better and better. I wanted to share some pictures I took to give you a glimpse into the beauty and hilarity of Krewe du Vieux and Krewedeulusion! Enjoy!
This year the theme of KdV was XXX! KdV said of their parade: “Hoping to XXX out at least a few of the bad guys and bad memories, the extroverts, extremists, extra-terrestrials, expendables, sexplorers and sexperts of Krewe du Vieux will take to the streets of the Marigny, French Quarter and CBD on Saturday, January 23 at 6:00 PM (coming early this year). Spectators are advised to exercise extreme caution as exuberant exhibitionists!”