The first week of March is notoriously like the last week of February, that is to say, the weather most everywhere really sucks. What is a CofC student to do when the weather in the Deep South is still less than optimal for sun, beaches and tanning? Go farther south. New Orleans is the spot many students will be headed to this year, as Mardi Gras falls on March 4, during spring break.
Mardi Gras, a Louisiana State holiday since 1875, has been honed into an artistic expression of a holiday. A notoriously boisterous, yet guaranteed good time, we wouldn’t just send you to NOLA without a lifeline. Consider this your Mardi Gras Survival Guide.
BEADS: While beads are the most publicized item collected during the celebrations, Mardi Gras throws also feature cups, stuffed animals and dubloons featuring the throwing krewe’s emblem. For bead and throws collections, flashing isn’t the only answer. If you’re the person who gets free pizza at Gilroy’s, go ahead. Otherwise, some sort of barter can be made. Beads are given to good costumes, so pack something creative and fun. If the cops catch you flashing for beads (which is public indecency and also illegal): act demure, agree with the cop, and be on the lookout for him the rest of the week.
COSTUMES: Good costumes get a lot of attention, and more attention means more beads. Part of the fun is dressing up, and in the essence of packing lightly, try to stick to a basic costume with a lot of accessories. Simply changing a boa, hat or makeup means more room in your suitcase for souvenirs. Venturing out at night on Bourbon St. means being prepared to throw away your shoes or pants. They will get dirty. You have been warned.
KING CAKE: Mardi Gras wouldn’t be complete without King Cake. King Cakes are decorated with Mardi Gras colors: purple (for justice), green (for faith) and gold (for power). The cake is to celebrate the three kings who brought gifts to Jesus. A small plastic baby Jesus is hidden in the cake, and the person who finds the baby in their slice is traditionally responsible for bringing the cake to the next Mardi party, and the person usually gets a small prize. Most King Cakes are made with cinnamon and butter rolled into the dough. There are also some bakeries that specialize in King Cake so much that they’re only open during the Mardi Gras season to make King Cakes.
BOOZE: Many people assume that Mardi Gras follows in the footsteps of NOLA’s infamous Bourbon St. where drunk is the only state to be in. You, college student, consider this your warning to slow your roll. This is not spring break in Panama City, so being blackout by 11 a.m. is not a life goal to aspire to. Day drinking can be fun as long as hydration is also made a priority. This being college, I know that my advice will go largely ignored, but don’t get so drunk on your first night that you’re laid out for the next two days, and be sure not to get too disorderly as the police will not hesitate to arrest. Also, if you are drinking, make sure you have your ID and cash in hand when you go to purchase your drinks. No one likes to wait for a drink, especially during Mardi Gras. Alcohol is permitted to be carried on the streets as long as it is in a can or cup, but the drinking age is enforced.
PARADES: Each parade is led by a Krewe; krewes provide the backbone of Mardi Gras, with tradition specific to each krewe incorporated into their parade. Krewe of Orpheus, which leads one of the largest parades, selected Quentin Tarantino as their celebrity monarch for this year’s parade so be on the lookout for him. If you want to see the parades, be sure to get there early. Several hours of waiting for a good seat is expected.
NOLA: For many New Orleanians, what goes down on Fat Tuesday is something that is planned all year long. It’s a lifestyle, not just a holiday. If you’re itching to get away from the French Quarter, take the streetcar around town to visit other neighborhoods. Uptown is the site of many parades, as well as Tulane’s main campus, Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, and plenty of restaurants and shops.