It’s officially the best time of the year down here in Mobile—Mardi Gras. This two month festival of debauchery is a source of pride for Mobile, too, since Mardi Gras in the U.S. was officially founded here. We take our Mardi-Party very seriously, so keep reading for all the information you need to Let the Good Times Roll (or, in the more traditional French, laissez les bons temps rouler)!
What is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras is a celebration of revelry, mayhem, masks and parades that falls from the twelfth night of Christmas, also known as King’s Day (January 6), until Fat Tuesday, the day immediately before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.
Mardi Gras is traditionally a Catholic holiday, derived from Pagan fertility traditions that fell in early Spring. Its name, Mardi Gras, is French for “Fat Tuesday.” You may also hear Mardi Gras referred to as “Carnival.”
Nowadays, we know Mardi Gras as a months-long party full of good food, drinking (if you’re of age, of course) and good times all around.
History of Mardi Gras
We have the French to thank for this glorious celebration. Way back in the early 1700s, Mobile served as the French colonial capital, where settlers continued their tradition of merrymaking during the Mardi Gras season. When the French capital was moved to New Orleans about a decade and a half later, the Mardi Gras traditions went too, making New Orleans another Mardi Gras hub.
From there, the party continued every year until the Civil War, where celebrations ground to a halt due to the war. In the Antebellum era, Joe Cain started the party once more in Mobile when he marched down the streets in 1868 dressed as fictional Chief Slacabamorinico on Fat Tuesday. The rest is history.
Because of his role in the return of Mardi Gras during the Antebellum period, Joe Cain is heralded in Mobile as the founder of Mobile’s modern Mardi Gras. In fact, the Sunday before Fat Tuesday is known as “Joe Cain Day” where the “Joe Cain Day Procession,” also known as “The People’s Parade” takes place. This procession is special since everyone can march as a part of the parade, assuming they register first (for crowd control & safety purposes).
Some fun Mardi Gras traditions
A festival this old is bound to be dripping in tradition. Let’s take a look at some of the traditions that make Mardi Gras so lively.
Mardi Gras Colors
Mardi Gras colors are traditionally purple, gold and green. Purple stands for justice, green stands for faith and gold stands for power. You’ll find these colors in the beads thrown, on Mardi Gras floats, in Mardi Gras decorations and sprinkled atop a delicious King Cake.
One of the most fun things about Mardi Gras is catching beads, stuffed animal, and other goodies from Mardi Gras floats. The louder you yell, the more likely you are to catch something good. Seriously, consider bringing a bead bag to keep up with all your parade bounty.
Masquerade-style masks started off as a way for partakers to hide their identity and, thus, protect their reputations during the festivities. In New Orleans, float-riders are required to wear masks at all times. We’re a bit more lax on masks as a requirement over here in Mobile, but they’re still an integral part of the Mardi Gras look.
Mardi Gras Krewes
The Krewes are the various groups that march in the Mardi Gras parades. These are highly secretive and mysterious groups. They create the floats, throw the beads and sometimes even host the parades. They’re typically named something like “Krewe de…” or “Order of.”
This delicious danish pastry is about to be your favorite new dessert. Sweet puff pastry, sometimes filled with fruits or cinnamon, topped with icing and sprinkles in the Mardi Gras colors.
Keep your eye out for the baby! The King Cake Baby is a tradition when eating King Cake where a small plastic baby is hidden somewhere in the cake and whomever gets the baby in their slice buys the next King Cake for the group.
MoonPies are unique to Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebrations. If you’re unfamiliar, a traditional MoonPie is a layered sweet snack with graham cracker and marshmallow topped in yummy chocolate. You can find other flavors like vanilla or banana, too.
Boxes of Cracker Jack used to be thrown, but were replaced by the much softer (read: less likely to cause a head injury) Moon Pie in the ’40s/’50s. These delicious snacks are so integral to Mobile’s Mardi Gras experience that there’s a MoonPie General Store downtown as well as the MoonPie Drop held on New Year’s Eve.
Mardi Gras 2022 & how to celebrate
If you’re ready to Let the Good Times Roll, we’ve got all the info you need to have the best Mardi Gras yet out on the Gulf Coast.
Just in downtown Mobile, there are nine different parade routes. When scheduling your Mardi Gras outings, be sure to check with the City of Mobile’s page on parade routes to make sure you end up at the right location for your parade. There are lots of parades during the Mardi Gras season, we’re just highlighting one from each parade day. For the full list of parades, see the City of Mobile’s parade schedule.
Fri, February 11: Mardi Gras parades kick off with the Conde Cavalier’s Parade at 6:30PM along Route A
Sat, February 12: 2:30PM—Mystic DJ Riders, Route A
Fri, February 18: 6:30PM—Order of Inca, Route A
Sat, February 19: 2PM—Mobile Mystics, Route A
Sun, February 20: 6:30PM—Order of Isis, Route A
Mon, February 21: 6:20 PM—Order of Venus, Route A
Tues, February 22: 2:30PM—Order of LaShe’s, Route A
Thurs, February 24: 6:30PM—Mystic Stripers Society
Fri, February 25: 6:30 PM—Crewe of Columbus, Route A
Sat, February 26: 5:45PM—Mystic of Time, Route H
Sun, February 27, Joe Cain Day: 2:30PM—Joe Cain Marchers, Route A
Mon, February 28, Lundi Gras: 3:30PM—Monday Mystics, Route D
Tues, March 1, Fat Tuesday: 6PM—Order of Myths, Route C
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