Source: Washington Post
The calendar may say that Mardi Gras arrives Tuesday, but in New Orleans, celebrations related to the holiday have been consuming the city for weeks. In the rest of the country, mentioning Mardi Gras often brings a shrug or a smirk: Isn’t that just a spring break beerfest for college kids? Let’s undress Mardi Gras and explain why it’s a much richer holiday than commonly mischaracterized. Yes, New Orleans Carnival is a time of excess. But it is an excess of generosity, creativity and culture — as well as pleasure.
1. Mardi Gras is all about beads, booze and breasts.
The popular depictions of Mardi Gras evoke a city-wide fraternity party where drunken young women flash their breasts in exchange for trinkets. This transaction does indeed occur near the Bourbon Street strip clubs. But for locals, and visitors who look below the surface and venture deeper into the real New Orleans, the Carnival experience is entirely different — and far removed from the stereotypes that have shaped outsiders’ perception of this holiday.
Parades are a big part of Mardi Gras, but they are family affairs. Along the uptown parade routes, anyone seeking to remove their clothes is likely to be stopped by angry parents out with their young children. Yes, there are beads tossed (we locals call them “throws”), and the riders on parade floats launch them with abandon. But beyond beads, there is a wide range of treasures — from fancy decorated shoes (made by the all-female group that puts on the Muses parade) and painted coconuts (designed by members of the Zulu parade) to cups, toys, stuffed animals and much more. The best items are usually thrown to children — and you don’t need to show any skin to get them.