There are almost as many misconceptions about Mardi Gras as there are airborne strands of beads at any given moment during a parade. A few things to know right off the bat: You don’t need a ticket (just show up); Carnival takes place over weeks, not a single day; and yes, it is family-friendly (as long as you stay away from Bourbon Street).
What else should you know? A lot of stuff. For Mardi Gras 101, here’s our guide to the most epic free party on earth.
When is Mardi Gras in New Orleans?
Mardi Gras takes place on Tuesday, February 13 this year. The date changes each year, but here’s a rule of thumb: Easter always takes place on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox, and Mardi Gras happens 41 days before Easter. It can be as early as February 3 or as late as March 9, depending on when Easter falls. Simple, right? Ha, just kidding.
The lunar calendar and its interactions with the ecclesiastical calendar are complex, to say the least, so all you really need to remember is that Mardi Gras takes place on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday kicks off 40 days of pious abnegation among New Orleans’ historically Catholic population. Overindulgence is the whole point, which is why the celebration is called Carnival (derived from the Latin words for farewell to the flesh -- and many locals do abstain from meat throughout Lent).