Making New Traditions, Celebrating Mardi Gras During a Pandemic

Making New Traditions, Celebrating Mardi Gras During a Pandemic

Words by: Michelle Dartez

One of the magical things about being born and raised in Louisiana is being able to celebrate Mardi Gras. Depending on what part of the state you are from, the celebration may start earlier while others start closer to the actual holiday. The Mardi Gras hub is, of course, New Orleans, and festivities begin after the first of the year, around January 6th. Carnival season comes to an official end on Fat Tuesday, better known as Mardi Gras Day, which falls right before Ash Wednesday each year.

New Orleans’ Mardi Gras parades typically draw crowds in the millions from all over the world every year. Many were disappointed, of course, being that it’s such a large part of our culture. But knowing that New Orleans was one of the country’s earliest hot spots for the virus last Spring, it made sense. Many health experts have traced the massive outbreak from the Mardi Gras celebrations held in February of 2020.

This year, though, Mardi Gras is going to look a bit different from the years prior. Parades and other festivities were officially canceled for New Orleans last Fall. With New Orleanians’ ability to adapt and be creative, residents found some fun ways to still celebrate this Carnival holiday. For example, hundreds of people signed up to decorate their homes like the spectacular floats that are expected for this time of year.

“This is our way to show our complete pride in our city and our culture. New Orleans will have yet another tradition that will set us apart,” artist Re Howse said to USA Today.

Many local artists and creatives have found steady income as they are being hired out to turn these everyday homes into extravagant “House Floats”. As of February first, there is a map on the Krewe of House Floats website, showing who is participating and where they are located. There is also a project that was formed to raise funds so that they can hire out more professional float builders and artists to decorate homes across the city.

Along with decorating homes for residents, there will be some virtual activities. Thanks to John Georges, owner of NOLA.com, and Barry Kern, CEO of Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, there will be what’s being called “Mardi Gras For All Y’all,” which will be a free, online event airing Feb. 12-14. It will be available for streaming on the NOLA.com and theadvocate.com news websites, as well as YouTube and Facebook Live. This virtual event will give its viewers an up-close, virtual experience, with floats, food, music, costumes, and stories detailing the history, culture, and traditions behind the Mardi Gras season.

“We have said for months that while Mardi Gras won’t be canceled, it will be different,” Cantrell said. “That also means that Mardi Gras can be creative, innovative, and interactive. That’s why we’re excited to see new and fun alternatives to safely celebrate the Carnival season, and that includes the NOLA.com and Mardi Gras World collaboration on ‘Mardi Gras For All Y’All.’ We hope this will serve as a reminder of why this season is so special to us — and the world.”

The local organizations and residents will not be the only ones participating in this new Mardi Gras. There will be many national celebrities who will be taking part in the virtual festivities as well. It wouldn’t be a New Orleans party without the “Queen Diva” herself, Big Freedia, who has been named the Grand Marshal. This House float organization has also set up a campaign to raise money to help all of those who have been affected by the Pandemic, especially with the economy taking a loss due to normal Mardi Gras activities being canceled.

Other areas in Louisiana are following suit, with the canceling of all of their usual Mardi Gras celebrations. They have adopted the idea of “Yardi Gras”, transforming their front yards and homes to mimic the parade floats, and turning it into a fun contest. The economy will be greatly affected by the lack of increased tourism that is usually brought in around this time of year. It’s going to be tough, but if you learn one thing about Louisiana and its residents, it’s that we are resilient and will find ways to celebrate, safely of course.