Aside from the record-breaking cold temperatures that shocked the southern states this past week, life in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, was very different. Usually, the city would be celebrating Mardi Gras, a Catholic holiday, before Lent. The holiday, celebrated for centuries, usually includes an enormous parade, exciting parties, and traditions which include bead and bread-tossing. The celebration originated in France and is popular in Louisiana because of the lasting influences of the French colonization there. Louisiana is the only state that recognizes Mardi Gras as a legal holiday. However, it is still celebrated throughout the United States, particularly in the South. Mardi Gras is an essential element of the culture in Louisiana. Over time, the celebrations have evolved from taking place for a day to taking place for a week. However, this vibrant tradition was celebrated differently this year because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Social distancing mandates prevented large groups of people from gathering in one place, making having a celebration that draws in large crowds of people difficult. Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, the people of New Orleans found new ways to celebrate. Sophomore, Josie Pappone, explains that “People couldn’t parade and get together like they usually do for Mardi Gras this year, so instead they turned their houses into floats with colorful decorations to keep spirits up.” Over 3,000 houses were decorated with colorful strands and paper-mache. The houses were reminiscent of the floats that typically meander through the streets of New Orleans. Donations paid local artists to design some of the artwork featured on the homes. Some people made floats individually, while businesses commissioned others.
To keep people from congregating in large groups, some streets were blocked off and protected by police. There weren’t any significant disturbances, and hopefully, these precautions will help lessen the spread of coronavirus.
In a city like New Orleans, known for its large, lively parties, this year’s Mardi Gras celebrations were strikingly different. Sophomore Catherine McCann reflects that “This year has been very different and nothing like a typical year.” For the people of New Orleans, this meant missing out on the tradition most culturally significant to them. However, as with many other things, it was an opportunity for growth and adaptation that exhibited the strength of the people of New Orleans and The United States. Even though the events of this past year have been unexpected, the people of America have not lost hope for the future.