How to Celebrate Mardi Gras Safely During COVID-19
For most Louisianians, Mardi Gras is the highlight of our year. Parades, king cake, dancing in the streets, costumes – what is there not to love? But our 2021 celebrations will look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the safety of all, parades have been canceled to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
But just because parades are canceled doesn’t mean we can’t still have some fun and celebrate Mardi Gras. We are a lively bunch who can find creative ways to celebrate while still staying safe! Here are the safest ways you can celebrate Mardi Gras this year.
Decorate your home
Each year, parades have different themes that are carried out throughout their float decorations and designs created by local artists. But because 2021 parades are canceled, we won’t be able to see the gorgeous, decorated floats that line the streets of New Orleans. Residents of New Orleans have found a safe alternative to still see some of these elaborate decorations by adding them to their houses.
Some Mardi Gras enthusiasts have decorated their houses on their own, while others have gone through organizations like the Krewe of House Floats. Created by New Orleans resident Megan Boudreaux, the Krewe of House Floats is comprised of 12,500 members, with the idea of supporting those most affected by the cancellation of the parades, including but not limited to local artists, float builders and other culture bearers. The krewe members utilize local artists and float builders to turn the exterior of their houses into “floats.” Locals can then take socially distanced tours of the various neighborhoods to see how others have decorated their houses. Another big component of the krewe is raising money to support our artists and culture bearers impacted by the pandemic. The krewe wants to help them continue their work through Carnival season and beyond. Money raised will also support various local programs that host food distribution sites and supply food, water, hygiene products and transportation to those who are on the streets.
I am a member of the Krewe of House Floats. I recently hired a Mardi Gras artist to create an 8-foot-tall likeness of our home-grown celebrity musician, Big Freedia, for my front porch. My home is in the Audubon/Riverside subkrewe whose theme is “There is a House in New Orleans.” I decorated my house as the “Queen of Bounce House.” Bounce, in this play on words, does not refer to the inflatable jump houses at kids’ birthday parties, but to a style of New Orleans hip hop music made famous by Big Freedia, the Queen Diva. I wanted to decorate my house like a float because Mardi Gras is about creating joy for EVERYONE. When people in the neighborhood walk/bike/drive by my House Float, they smile, and wave and tell me how happy seeing a big blingy Big Freedia makes them. It feels amazing to know I helped bring that sparkle of joy to these dark times. It’s about bringing back everything that COVID took from us in a safe way.
Big Freedia is an inspiration to me because she is big, beautiful and unapologetically authentic to herself. Big Freedia’s quotes adorn the arms of the Mardi Gras Revelers on the float as Garden Granny dancers flank the bead-lined gate. A string of giant beads crafted from Mardi-Gras-colored paper lanterns sprayed with waterproof sealant hang from the roof. You can find the @queenofbouncehouse on Instagram and on the official Krewe of House Floats interactive map which will be released on Feb. 1! Its comprehensive map will have locations and descriptions of 3000 houses in the city participating in the Krewe of House Floats.
Get crafty and design shoe box floats
Have your kids or nieces and nephews join in on the fun too by making shoebox floats. This craft is a tradition for many New Orleans kids, where they turn an old shoebox into a parade float complete with riders and all. All you need is an old shoebox, construction paper, old Mardi Gras beads, figurines to act as the riders, some hot glue and your imagination. Adults should help with some of the trickier components, like cutting paper or gluing items. Even parents or your extended family and friends can create one too and have a contest for cutest float. Winner gets the first piece of king cake!
Make your own king cake
Traditional Mardi Gras celebrations may be off, but you can’t cancel king cake! Go around and ask south Louisianians what the best king cake is, and chances are you will hear a different answer from each person. Some like it with icing, some without. Some like their king cake stuffed, while others are very particular about what kind of bread is used. One king cake we can all get behind is one that tastes good and is healthy for you too! Centered on an all-natural clean ingredient label, the Eat Fit King Cake is made with almond flour and coconut flour. It’s sweetened with Swerve, a natural, plant-based sweetener, with no artificial sweeteners or colors. Each serving has just two grams net carbs and zero sugar. You can purchase an Eat Fit King Cake from one of our retailers or try and make your own. The Eat Fit Cookbook has the full recipe on how to make your very own delicious and nutritious king cake.
Host a virtual costume party
As a popular tourist destination and region that prides itself on creative costuming, Mardi Gras is a big deal in Louisiana. We’re used to gathering in large groups for elaborate costume parties and parades. This year, we’ll need to put the big gatherings and celebrations on hold, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still show off your best costume. Consider hosting a costume contest with your friends and family virtually through Zoom or FaceTime, with costume competitions and prizes for the winner. Our costume prediction – a lot of bedazzled purple, green and gold face masks.
Tune in to virtual Mardi Gras celebrations
These days, it’s all about the virtual celebrations, and lucky for us, there are a few organizations hosting virtual events.
- NOLA.com is hosting Mardi Gras For All Y’all, which takes place virtually for three nights, Feb 12-14, 2021, from 9-11 p.m. each night. You can watch the free virtual events on NOLA.com, theadvocate.com, and NOLA.com’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. The event will feature iconic artists, chefs and personalities at famous New Orleans venues including Mardi Gras World, Antoine’s, Dookie Chase’s and more. Scheduled to appear are New Orleans Saints legend Archie Manning; “Today’’ show host Hoda Kotb; the Preservation Hall Jazz Band; chef Emeril Lagasse; and a special guest performance by Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winners Leo Nocentelli and George Porter Jr. of The Meters.
- WYES, New Orleans’ local PBS member station, will be airing a variety of Mardi Gras programs and Carnival classics. One special is “New Orleans Parades from the Past.” In this one-hour program, rare home movies and archival footage offer a glimpse at past parades of Rex, Comus, Zulu, Endymion, Bacchus and nearly a dozen other krewes. Highlights include some of the earliest known footage of Rex parades from the 1920s, as well as footage showing the huge crowds that greeted the Rex and Zulu parades on Canal Street in the 1940s. You can learn more here.
While I don’t recommend going to large celebrations, here are some quick guidelines to keep in mind if you do venture out:
- Stay home if you are sick
- Wear a mask – bedazzled or not
- Socially distance yourself, and avoid large crowds
And, as we say in New Orleans, let the good (and safe) times roll!
For the latest updated on COVID-19, visit ochsner.org/coronavirus.