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NAT GEO * Carnival vs. Mardi Gras: What’s the difference? *

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NAT GEO * Carnival vs. Mardi Gras: What’s the difference? * Empty NAT GEO * Carnival vs. Mardi Gras: What’s the difference? *

Post by Paul Fri 02 Feb 2024, 4:14 pm

NAT GEO * Carnival vs. Mardi Gras: What’s the difference? * Screen76




BYWILL SUTTON
PUBLISHED JANUARY 31, 2024









Carnival seasons in Venice, Italy, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are among the best known and most popular. There’s also Cologne Karneval in Germany, Nice Carnaval in France, Oruro Carnival in Bolivia, Binche Carnaval in Belgium, Spain’s Tenerife Carnaval in the Canary Islands, and festivities across the Caribbean—from Cuba to Trinidad and Tobago.
But only one place is known worldwide for Mardi Gras. That’s New Orleans, home to the longest frolicking season that begins with Carnival and ends with the famed Mardi Gras. The difference in the celebrations lies in the details.
“The most important Carnivals across the world are in New Orleans, Rio and Venice,” says Errol Laborde, a New Orleans-based Carnival and Mardi Gras historian. “Rio is more of a dance and parade kind of Carnival. Venice is more of a visual, costume kind of Carnival. Rio doesn’t have throws like we do in New Orleans.”
NAT GEO * Carnival vs. Mardi Gras: What’s the difference? * Screen77


[size=14]Left: Revelers catch objects from a float in the 2023 Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club parade during a Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. Also known as Fat Tuesday and Shrove Tuesday, the celebration marks the end of festivities before the start of Lent. 


Right: Paradegoers raise their hands to catch beads from a float in the 2023 Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club parade during a Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHANDAN KHANNA, AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

While all the events have their own special something, at the heart of the traditions is the celebration of life, simply having fun before the season of penitence under the Christian faith known as Lent.
“Carnival in Brazil and Mardi Gras in New Orleans are very different, but deep down they have the same essence,” Andreza Trivillan, a native Brazilian travel blogger who has visited Louisiana’s Carnival, explained in an email. “No accessories are thrown to the crowds. There is no typical Carnival food or drink in Brazil, unlike what happens with king cake in New Orleans.”
Arthur Hardy, the founder of Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide, knows a thing or two about Carnival and Mardi Gras. It burns him up when people–even people in New Orleans–confuse the two. “Carnival is a season. Mardi Gras is a day,” says Hardy. The glossy, everything-you-want-to-know guide has published for 48 years with plenty of factoids and information about Louisiana balls, kings, queens, and other traditions.
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The role of krewes


In New Orleans, there are Carnival organizations, known as krewes, that host formal balls, costume balls, parties, receptions, and parades. Some are super krewes. Others are mid-size krewes. Still others are sub-krewes. And there are micro-krewes. Some parades include specially built theme floats. Lots of parades have “throws,” stuff float riders toss to paradegoers who like to collect whatever they can get their hands on, especially plastic beads and parade-specific items. The Krewe of Muses shares individually decorated women’s high-heel shoes. The Krewe of Zulu no longer tosses their signature throw to prevent injuries: these days riders in this mostly Black krewe place hand-painted coconuts in the hands of revelers.
Carnival in New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana is longer than those other places because it is strictly tied to the Lenten season. It starts on January 6, Epiphany, the holiday that commemorates the day the three wise men or kings paid a visit to baby Jesus in Bethlehem offering gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Celebrations this year conclude with Mardi Gras on February 13, the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent, a day that changes from year to year. Carnival in New Orleans was 48 days last year. This year it’s 38 days.


NAT GEO * Carnival vs. Mardi Gras: What’s the difference? * Screen78


Businesses, street performers and vendors who count on Carnival to make a living don’t like short Carnival seasons. It means less time to make money. Bakeries in New Orleans bake scrumptious king cakes with and without filling, all covered with traditional Mardi Gras colors– purple, green, and gold. One bakery might bake 500 king cakes a day. Five hundred cakes a day for two weeks is far different from the revenue they make during a month-long season.
“If you want to blame somebody for that, blame it on the pope,” Hardy says with a laugh.

Fun packed into a single day


As Hardy says, Mardi Gras is a single day. It’s always 47 days before Easter, so the Mardi Gras date changes with the church calendar. The day before is the next to last day of Carnival, Lundi Gras, or Fat Monday. Mardi Gras translates to Fat Tuesday. Some call it Shrove Tuesday. Most call it the Greatest Free Party on Earth, or the Greatest Free Show on Earth. The Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Council plans an official “parade season,” designated by law as the 12 days before Mardi Gras.
Each year, paradegoers eagerly anticipate the krewe parade themes. Some always focus on fantasy. “Iris Travels the World.” Some have celebrity kings or queens. Actor Kevin Dillon, of the movies Platoon and Entourage, is this year’s king of the Krewe of Bacchus. Named after the one Egyptian queen nearly everyone knows, the Krewe of Nerfetti has a family parade with singer Tarriona Tank Ball of the musical group, Tank and the Bangas, as their queen. She’ll lead their “Bloom Where You Are Planted” parade. Musicians Flo Rida and Sting aren’t kings with the Krewe of Endymion, but they will perform at the glitzy Endymion extravaganza party attended by thousands.


NAT GEO * Carnival vs. Mardi Gras: What’s the difference? * Screen79NAT GEO * Carnival vs. Mardi Gras: What’s the difference? * Screen80


The parade of the Secret Society of Saint Anne during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. 
PHOTOGRAPH BY KRISTA ROSSOW, NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION




There are Carnival activities across Louisiana. The Krewe of Hyacinthians rolls in Houma. The Baton Rouge region has its own set of parades, including the Mardi Paws Dog Parade, the Krewe of Spanish Town and the Krewe of Orion. Monroe and West Monroe paradegoers enjoy the Twin Cities’s Krew de Riviere Mardi Gras Parade and the Krewe of Janus. People in Lafayette give a nod to Carnival elsewhere with the Krewe of Carnivale en Rio Mardi Gras Parade and the Krewe of Canailles—loosely translated as the Krewe of Scoundrels—intended to welcome the riffraff, the masses, anybody and everybody.
 In New Orleans, Carnival and Mardi Gras are weeks of having a good time. Residents and visitors choose what a “good time” means for them. They can go places where anything might happen, and everything might be seen. Some avoid parades and opt for balls and parties. The parades also can be seen at WWL Louisiana Parade Tracker AppWDSU Parade Tracker; and  NOLA.COM
Everyone knows it’s an important part of the culture. It’s also big business.

Economic impact


A recent economic impact study prepared by New Orleans and Company, the mayor’s advisory council, and Tulane University shows tremendous impact on the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana. There’s a direct and indirect impact on the city of $891,202,780 and a net fiscal benefit of $28 million. The state gets about $14 million in taxes.
“Compared to any other event, here or elsewhere, there’s no other event like Carnival,” says Kelly Schulz, senior vice president for communications and public relations at New Orleans & Company. “It’s unreal that we can do this every year.  It’s a masterful execution ... It’s the best and most complex event we have.”
There’s a saying in New Orleans that captures the season: Laissez les bons temps rouler! — Let the good times roll!
Will Sutton, a New Orleans native, started going to Carnival and Mardi Gras parades as a child. He marched in several parades with the St. Augustine High School Marching 100. Email him at editorwillsutton@gmail.com
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