Celebrating the Tricentennial: The First Mardi Gras Parades

This year we celebrate the New Orleans Tricentennial, opens a new window. The 2018 NOLA Commission has created a variety of special events, concerts, and fireworks as well as the completion of major infrastructure projects in 2018 to commemorate this important anniversary.  Here at the St. Tammany Parish Library, we will feature a new blog post each month about an aspect of New Orleans culture or history. 

This month, we are talking about Mardi Gras. Though Mardi Gras has been celebrated in New Orleans since the 1700s, the first documented parade didn't roll until 1837 when a group of masked revelers took to the streets, distributing sugarplums, kisses, and oranges to the crowd that followed them. The highlight of the parade may have been a six-foot rooster, riding in a vehicle, crowing, and flapping its wings. These informal parades continued until the 1850s.

In 1857 the Mystic Krewe of Comus made its first appearance, beginning two new traditions: choosing a theme for the parade—"The Demon Actors in Milton's Paradise Lost"—and displaying the pageant onstage after the end of the procession. After this first parade, Comus admitted 38 new members and organized a closed social club called the Pickwick Club (an homage to Dickens's literary character). Unlike earlier parades, Comus was closed to individual maskers and only members were allowed to march.

New Orlean's Carnival and Mardi Gras Celebration have continued to evolve and change over the last 160-plus years. This year Carnival season will officially begin on January 6 with a special King's Day Celebration, Fireworks, and Kick-Off to Tricentennial Mardi Gras. And Mardi Gras is February 13. You can find all of the parade schedules and routes here.

Check out some of the titles and websites below to learn more about New Orleans history. You can also view historical photos from New Orleans Mardi Gras at the Louisiana Digital Library, opens a new window.

Celebrating the Tricentennial: Fantastic Books about New Orleans A collection of outstanding nonfiction titles about the history of New Orleans. Also included are a collection of websites dedicated to the tricentennial.

View Full List