IN NEW Orleans, they call Carnival “the greatest free show on earth”—a three-week season of parades full of satirical floats, high-school marching bands, dance troupes and walking clubs. It’s the only place in America that does the pre-Lenten celebration on such a scale. Besides being a fantastic spectacle, Carnival, which culminates with Mardi Gras on February 9th this year, offers a fascinating glimpse into the city's society. Almost every New Orleans resident participates in some way, except for a few grouches who flee when the parading season starts.
There are the blue-blood organizations—“krewes,” in Carnival parlance—that have been parading since the late 1800s, when the festival was introduced to the city by French settlers, and whose membership is generally limited to those born into the right (always white) families. There are many less-snooty krewes, which are larger and more diverse. Joining might require an invitation from a friend, membership money and plenty of “throws”: plastic trinkets to chuck from floats, which might total $3,000.
Fat Tuesday is ushered in by the city’s oldest...Continue reading