Mardi Gras Carnival Art / February 21, 2019 / Rachel Gates
Beginning two weeks before Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras Day there is at least one parade daily. It is during these parades that the beads or throws are primarily used. The New Orleans parades are organized by Krewes which are member sponsored communities. During the course of the parade the krewe members toss out a number of different types of throws such as beads doubloons cups and stuffed animals or small toys. Make sure you bring a large bag pillow case or any other sturdy container to bring your "catch" home in. Prior to the 1960 s the beads were made from glass; however they are currently being made from plastic.
The parades in New Orleans now begin up to three weeks before Mardi Gras with the Carnival season officially starting on the January 6th the Feast of Epiphany. The French Quarter of the city is the heart of the celebration which concludes promptly at midnight on Mardi Gras with the police asking revelers to scatter and the massive clean up getting under way. The krewe system was originally a hierarchical method that showcased the elite of the Carnival and usually New Orleans society. However in the latter part of the 20th century the exclusivity of the krewes was tempered by the formation of new more democratic krewes for which no credentials were required.
Behind the band come six "strong men" from the village often the tradition of carrying the torch or flambeaux is passed from father to son as the elder gets on in years. They sometimes have a helper walking beside them just in case. It s a hard and difficult job. The torches are similar in length to a caber and have been soaked for many months to ensure they stay alight. The flambeaux are then followed by many floats in which the local inhabitants deck both the float and themselves out in a variety of colours and costumes. Many are topical political statements. The more whisky that s handed around the waiting crowd the funnier they seem.