We are now in the midst of Mardi Gras season with the celebrations culminating with Fat Tuesday on Tuesday, March 4th. Mardi Gras has origins back to pagan spring rites and rituals. Today, it is a celebration of music, food, floats and excitement. Mardi Gras celebrations actually start in the beginning of January with the 12th Night Feast of Epiphany and runs through to Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras has been celebrated in New Orleans since the city was founded in the early 1700’s. The modern celebrations date back to the 1830’s with masked parade participants going through the town. Costumed parade participants have been throwing out beads and other small gifts in the Mardi Gras parades since 1871. Mardi Gras is celebrated as Carnival in different cities around the world including Venice, Italy and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Many cities have Mardi Gras celebrations and Fat Tuesday feasts, but New Orleans is the capital of everything Mardi Gras. There are parades, masked balls and parties in full swing for the 12 days before Ash Wednesday. There are over 70 free parades in the city that are put on by different krewes (social clubs and organizations) starting at 8am to sundown each of the 12 days. The larger parades can have hundreds of floats, marching bands and participants that wind through the streets of the French Quarter.
Mardi Gras Events in Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Baltimore Areas
The Washington D.C. area has quite a few Mardi Gras events and celebrations. The Mystick Krewe of Louisiana held their annual Carnival Ball on February 22nd. This event kicked off many of the Mardi Gras celebrations in the area. The 16th Annual Clarendon Courthouse Mardi Gras Parade is Tuesday, March 4th in Arlington, Virginia. The parade is the largest Fat Tuesday celebration in the Washington D.C. area. The parade, which runs along Wilson Boulevard and starts at 8pm, is family friendly with floats, marching bands, community groups, costumed performers and of course beads! You can continue with the celebrations after the parade at the Bayou Gras Block Party with many area pubs and restaurants participating with live music, great food and other celebrations. Rumors in Washington D.C. will be transformed for the Bourbon Street Bash on March 4th with music, New Orleans style food and beads. The Power Plant in downtown Baltimore is hosting its first Mardi Gras celebration on March 1st. There will be a carnival atmosphere with stilt walkers, fire breathers, Cajun food, New Orleans style jazz and much more. Eight bars and restaurants in the Power Plant area will be participating in the event. Even though Northern Virginia, Baltimore and Washington D.C. are thousands of miles from New Orleans, there are still many ways to celebrate Mardi Gras from family friendly events to adult only celebrations.