Stories, Resources, and Tips

Everything You Need to Know as a Travel Nurse in New Orleans During Mardi Gras Season

Travel nursing with Gifted Healthcare opens the door to many exciting experiences and opportunities. Mardi Gras season is perhaps the most unique and entertaining experience of them all. It holds a special place with Gifted because Gifted Healthcare was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and the majority of our staff are still based in the area.

This post will explain the history of Mardi Gras and all the ways to celebrate from Mardi Gras experts so that you can make the most of this one-of-a-kind festival during your next travel nursing adventure in New Orleans!

What Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras, also known as “Fat Tuesday,” is a traditional holiday celebrated in many countries around the world, but is most famously hosted in New Orleans, Louisiana. The holiday marks the last day of the Carnival season and is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the start of the Christian season of Lent. In 2023, it takes place on Tuesday, February 21.

Although the Mardi Gras season begins in January, the festival typically hits its peak during the week leading up to Mardi Gras Day. Most visitors arrive in New Orleans the weekend before Mardi Gras Day to enjoy the large number of parades that take place leading up to Fat Tuesday.

Now, thousands of locals take part each year in a public celebration across the entire city that includes parades, concerts, costumes, indulgences, balls, galas, and so much more.

The Mardi Gras Parade & Mardi Gras Krewes

The most famous representation of Mardi Gras in the United States is the Mardi Gras parade. Each year, nearly 70 parades comprised of elaborately decorated floats, dance groups, band members, and more make their way through the city streets. The largest parades can involve over 3,000 people.

Every parade is organized and thrown by a “krewe.” Each of them has a theme, often taken from history, mythology, celebrity figures, children’s stories, and more. Krewe members ride on parade floats, throwing items to parade-goers as the floats pass by.

These items, known as “throws,” can include beads, doubloons, cups, homemade crafts, toys, clothing, and much more. Some parades have “signature throws,” which are iconic and rare items that parade-goers dream of catching every year. If you want to catch beads like a local, yell out “Throw me something, mister” as the floats roll by.

Below are a few of the most historic and famous Mardi Gras krewes:

The Mardi Gras parade is a colorful, energetic, and joyous celebration unlike any other. We promise that you’ll never experience anything like it anywhere else in the world!

Click here to learn about every Mardi Gras krewe at Visit New Orleans.

Masks, Costumes, and Colors

Historically, masks were worn by revelers to preserve anonymity and maintain their reputations and although anonymity is still an important part of many Mardi Gras krewe traditions, in the modern festival season, costumes and masks are worn simply for fun and many of them incorporate the official colors of Mardi Gras: purple, green, and gold. Purple represents Justice, green represents Faith, and gold stands for Power.

If you’re planning to participate in Mardi Gras, check out this comprehensive “How to Dress for Mardi Gras guide by

King Cakes

Another important part of Mardi Gras is the food. Traditional Mardi Gras dishes include jambalaya, gumbo, and king cake. The king cake is a round pastry that is decorated with purple, green, and gold icing, the colors of Mardi Gras. Inside the cake, there is a small plastic baby, and the person who finds it in their slice is said to have good luck for the rest of the year…but they also have to buy next year’

New Orleans King Cakes are the tastiest part of the Mardi Gras tradition. The name “king cake” is taken from the Biblical story of the three kings who brought gifts to Jesus after his birth.

The King Cake is a “blend of coffee cake and cinnamon roll,” topped with yellow, green, and purple icing and filled with a wide variety of delicious ingredients, including fruits, chocolate, and cream cheese. Within this delectable cake is a hidden surprise: a plastic King Cake baby! Whoever finds the baby is responsible for purchasing the next year’s king cake.

You can find King Cakes at most supermarkets and bakeries around town during the festival season.

The Mardi Gras Indians

One of the most unique aspects of the Mardi Gras tradition is the Mardi Gras Indians. Their participation in Carnival dates back to the 19th century when Native Americans helped protect runaway slaves in the South. Mardi Gras Indian culture is influenced by this historic bond between African slaves and local Native American peoples.

Before the Civil Rights movement, African Americans were banned from mainstream Mardi Gras celebrations. As a result, they created their own celebration within their neighborhoods, eventually forming dozens of groups that became known as the Mardi Gras Indians.

Each group of Mardi Gras Indians has its own unique history and traditions. They are known primarily for their incredible hand-sewn suits, which feature ornate beadwork, beautiful images, and other decorations. Many groups take to the streets in their elaborate handmade suits to play music and dance. Most perform traditional chants with tambourines and other percussion instruments.

The Mardi Gras Indians are truly a sight to see, and their story is a very important part of the history of Mardi Gras.

Lundi Gras

Mardi Gras is the culmination of Carnival season. Lundi Gras, or “Fat Monday”, offers a huge array of traditions and fun as well. In the 70s and 80s, Lundi Gras was a day when everyone rested before the big party on Tuesday. However, Lundi Gras is now another day of big-time partying full of its own unique events.

Here are a few events and traditions to check out on Lundi Gras:

Enjoy Mardi Gras This Year as a Gifted Healthcare Nurse

Want to enjoy Mardi Gras during your next assignment? Apply now. Learn about the wide variety of Gifted contracts available in South Louisiana!

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