NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA-- Around one and a half million festival-goers attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans every year. It's a celebration of purple, green and gold that shines brightly throughout the cosmos! The Historic New Orleans Collection at large possess a wealth of knowledge and a symbolic time machine to transport visitors to the past.
Every year, the Historic New Orleans Collection invites guests to a historic tour of Mardi Gras. This year the tour is called, Rights, Rituals and Revelry.
On the tour, you'll learn that the party was just getting started in 1717 when Jean- Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville wrote to the Company of the West about a promising new settlement that would be founded a year later as New Orleans.
Kurt Owens is the interpretation assistant of the Historic New Orleans Collection and says, "the French had grown up with Carnival with eons of the Catholic church and even before that with the celebration of the vernal equinox. When they get to North America, they have a long history of Mardi Gras already."
Another stop on the tour fasts forward from a colonial New Orleans into a city ready to party!
During the 19th century, New Orleans was not a harmonious mix of French creoles and New Americans. Soon an old idea by way of the city of Mobile gave rise to the "Mystick Krewe of Comus," now the city's oldest mardi gras organization. Here is where things get eccentric and darkly festive.
Owens says, "February 24th, 1857, Comus, the God of Festivity, emerged for the first time in a parade with two floats. One was for himself, where he wielded a golden cup and one float was for Satan, at the end of the parade. Inbetween both floats was a wild collection of fantastic cosutmes. The parade leads to the Varieties theatre where they stage a four scene tableu in the Palace of Lucifer after Milton's Paradise Lost. The patern is set with a parade and a ball. The paper's love it."
One of the most elusive and blessed moments you can experience during Mardi Gras is to happen upon the majesty of the Mardi Gras Indians. You'll learn on the tour a theory behind how the tradition started, beginning with the 1884 worlds fair (that gave rise to the world's largest building) that used to be right where Audubon Park is today.
Owens colorfully begins this tale by saying, "The Krewe of Rex held an immense imperial recepetion at the world's fair building. At the same time, the Buffalo Bill Wild West show was performing there. The performance included an entire tribue of Pawnee Indians. On mardi gras day, they got up in their feathers and paraded. The African American community had always had close ties with the Native American community in and one day got up and said they were going to dress up as indians and that began the long tradition of Mardi Gras Indians."
These stories are only a taste of the tour. To get the full experience, of parading down the Mardi Gras of yesteryears The Historic New Orleans Collection will continue to tours through March first. The tours run daily, with the possibility of a second tour in the afternoon. Tickets are five dollars. You may purchase tickets here.