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Fully Krewed—The Traditions of Mardi Gras

With the 2017 Mardi Gras season upon us, the new year promises that even more individuals from all corners of the world will flock to New Orleans to witness the massive lineup of parades. However, many may visit for the spectacle of the festival without being entirely aware how Mardi Gras works. If you’re considering visiting New Orleans and aren’t sure what to expect, or are just looking to gain a little insight into what the festival is all about, I’d like to delve into the practical ins and outs of Mardi Gras!

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is a celebration with ties to both Christian and Pagan traditions. It is held on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent, marking a day of excess before giving up unhealthy food and drink. However, the season officially begins on January 6th, with multiple days of parades planned between them and Fat Tuesday.

The festival has certainly escalated since its estimated inception in the days of ancient Rome. Modern New Orleans traditions include the throwing of trinkets to awaiting crowds—a practice so popular that trees on the street are often decorated with beads for months after—to exclusive balls celebrating the city’s young debutantes. Now more of a cultural phenomenon than a religious festival, Mardi Gras remains a large draw for visitors to Louisiana to this day.

The Culture Behind Mardi Gras

The groups of people that set up floats and throw balls are called krewes. Part party planning committee and part community service organization, krewe members pay dues to finance their activities during the festival.

Generally, invitation to the aforementioned balls is based on who you know in the krewes. Though some offer public tickets, don’t count on getting invited to a Mardi Gras ball unless you have connections (or can make friends fast!).

King Cake

A traditional aspect of Mardi Gras is the serving of king cake at various functions. January sixth is also known as “the Feast of the Epiphany” and is also the first time that king cakes are eaten during the festival.

The cake itself resembles a doughnut and is comprised of cinnamon-laced dough topped with icing and colored sugar, traditionally in purple, green, and gold. These three colors traditionally represent justice, faith, and power, respectively.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the cake is the inclusion of a small baby figurine inside, representative of the baby Jesus. Whoever receives the slice of cake with the figurine is treated like royalty for the evening, but is also obligated to purchase the next cake. In other countries, the baby is often replaced by a pea or a bean.

Where to go on Mardi Gras?

In a broader sense, many cities across the world celebrate Mardi Gras, though New Orleans is the most famous for the practice. If you’re looking to get a sense of how the festival is celebrated elsewhere, check out Baton Rouge, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Cologne, Germany.

In New Orleans, the bulk of the celebration is held in the city’s French Quarter, and is renowned for being family-friendly despite the prevalence of alcohol during the festival. Bourbon Street, as the name suggests, is home to the raunchier Mardi Gras crowds; but the rest of the quarter is lined with families looking to take in the spectacle of parades.

What else do I need to know?

Be smart and be safe!

Despite being a tradition dating back centuries, Mardi Gras is fairly loose and not particularly stringent about the behavior of its revelers. That said, expect a lot of costumes from attendants; even if you’re from out of town, consider joining in the festivities by dressing up! There are no particular limits on how to dress, but many of the popular costumes are satirical or humorous. If you happen to be invited to a ball, the requirements are much stricter, requiring gowns and tuxedos for guests.

Mardi Gras isn’t just a celebration; it’s a cultural staple that defines New Orleans as a city and something that everybody should experience.

The Haunting Nights of New Orleans Ghost Tours

New Orleans is known for many things: music, food, history. Yet, one very intriguing aspect of New Orleans history is not often articulated, and that is the city’s vast array of ghost tours. Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, it is certain that there is something unnerving about pacing through historic cemeteries, meandering through former murderous establishments, and strutting along ghostly cobblestone streets. Below are listed some of the most captivating ghost tours in the city for those who are inclined to push their limits.

Witches Brew Tours

With over three decades of experience, the reputable Witches Brew Tours boasts some of the most eerie, most haunting, and most interesting ghostly explorations in the metropolis. The guides themselves are incredibly talented and committed to their role. Although theatrical, their efforts help to make the tour a fully immersive experience that is not soon to be forgotten. While there is, to say the least, a number of ghost tour companies available in the city, I would be hard pressed to name one more worth your time than Witches Brew Tours.

Haunted History/Ghost Tour

With a wealth of options available, the Haunted History/Ghost Tour companies offers ghost, vampire, and cemetery tours for those looking to engage with potentially otherworldly spirits. The tour guides are immensely knowledgeable, providing haunting detail with every establishment and area visited. Additionally, it should be noted that when traveling through the French Quarter, tour participants will see the voodoo queen Marie Laveaux’s tomb, a vital part to any trip in the Big Easy.

French Quarter Phantoms

Always in competition with aforementioned Haunted History/Ghost Tour, French Quarter Phantoms provides a nearly unparalleled haunting trip through time. Historically accurate, the tour is not only vastly entertaining but insightfully educational. Appropriate for all ages, the theatricality of this tour is diminished to a lesser degree than in others. In fact, the real fear comes at the hand of stone cold incontrovertible truth. To listen is to feel the transparent hand of the supernatural prickle your skin goosebump by goosebump.

The next time you find yourself in the Crescent City, take advantage of these notably eerie supernatural awakenings. The green isn’t always greener on the other side; and it’s time you found that out for yourself.

10 Classic Dishes From The Heart of New Orleans

10 Classic Dishes From The Heart of New Orleans

Along with the status of being one of the most culturally rich port cities of the U.S., New Orleans still continues to reign supreme as one of the culinary gems of the country. You simply cannot deny the fact that New Orleans’ vibrant history of native, Spanish and French influence has affected the diverse and comforting dishes that comprise some of the port city’s culinary masterpieces. With this in mind, the combination of spice and historical recipes from the Old World highlight the area’s melting pot history which make New Orleans what it is today. See below for just some of the interesting dishes that this city has to offer and read more about them on CN Traveler.


Chargrilled Oysters Acme Oyster House and Drago’s Seafood Restaurant

A special dish to New Orleans, the grill adds a completely different level to oysters that are usually served raw in other parts of the south. The smokiness of the char grill is a subtle undertone in the oyster which is complemented perfectly by the heavenly bread crumb herb mixture.


Po’ Boys at Johnny’s Po’ Boys

Originally provided to unpaid, picketing laborers in the 1920’s, this sandwich with a story is a popular quick lunch pick me up for anyone working in the neighborhood. The fried shrimp Po’Boy is an almost must.


Beignets at Café Du Monde

A french pastry that made its way to the New Orleans port, this light doughnut smothered in powdered sugar could easily make any afternoon on the town even more enjoyable.


Muffuletta at Central Grocery

Another super delicious, hearty sandwich that is packed with italian meats ranging from mortadella to salami with fresh italian bread of course.


Red Beans & Rice at Mother’s Restaurant

Made with pork bones from Sunday night dinner, this dish is no way a leftover meal. Perfect from the first bite and never disappointing, Mother’s makes you believe you’re in the comfort of your living room.


Gumbo at Commander’s Palace Restaurant

The most famous New Orleans dish stewed to perfection with seafood, chicken and cured pork is a fantastic addition to any type of day.


Pralines at Tee-Eva’s Old Fashioned Pies and Pralines

Made with sugar cane and pecans locally grown in the region, this simple cookie is truly one of a kind. Another recipe brought by the French, this dessert allows us to appreciate culinary genius from the Old World.


Blackened Redfish at Jacques-Imos

Even though this dish has a strange and somewhat unappetizing name, this butter dipped spice induced fish with all its crusty goodness will have you coming back for more.


Boudin Ronnie’s Boudin & Cracklin’ House

This Cajun sausage is a staple for any New Orleans local and is a rite of passage for anyone visiting the area. Enough said, just please go have some.


BBQ Shrimp

There is nothing better than shrimp cooked in a spicy butter bath accompanied with some fresh, crusty French bread. Please trust me on this one.
BBQ shrimp