It’s impossible to not be showered by the spirit of Mardi Gras if you are in New Orleans anytime between January and Fat Tuesday. Its significance, while deeply rooted in history, remains symbolic of the tightly knit city of New Orleans today.
The date of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, changes annually based on the Lenten Calendar. Its origins within Louisiana began when French Settler Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne arrived in Louisiana in 1699 on the eve of Ash Tuesday and named his location “Pointe du Mardi Gras” after the holiday which many Christians use to indulge prior to a 40-day commitment to fasting and sacrifice. While small-scale Mardi Gras celebrations took place in Louisiana as early as that year, it was not until 1857 that the first public procession of Mardi Gras parades fled the streets of New Orleans. The holiday and the preceding month have grown in size and significance as “Krewes,” — Mardi Gras committees and celebration leaders — accumulated members and attendance expanded.
“Mardi Gras is an opportunity to put on a mask and do things you can’t do every day,” said Lloyd Frischhertz, a New Orleans native and co-founder of the Krewe of Tucks. “We invite people from all over the world to join that comradeship, that unity.”
The Krewe of Tucks, which parades down St. Charles on Saturday afternoon every year, was founded by Frischhertz and fellow Loyola University New Orleans students in 1969. Tucks aims to be a jovial, satirical krewe, with signature toilet-themed throws and floats. Tucks coexists with other older, historically elite krewes like Rex, which leads with Krewe of Zulu at the culmination of festivities on Mardi Gras day.
Some krewes base their membership on lineage while others have open applications. Though their requirements vary, their hard work and dedication to the celebration comes together as an experience for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Mardi Gras is opportunity for New Orleanians and tourists to unite in a holiday unlike any other. It’s not only citywide, but as UCSC student and New Orleans local Colleen Nicholl said, “I think that Mardi Gras is the essence of the New Orleans attitude. It doesn’t matter your race or your social class, everyone enjoys Mardi Gras. It’s inclusive and cohesive.”