Today is the last day of Mardi Gras this year, the official day of the name, Fat Tuesday. I normally stay as far away from the festivities as possible (which have gone on for weeks now), but since I moved again and this time one block from the Quarter, it's hard to avoid. Even though it happens every year (and I've lived here long enough to see 5), Mardi Gras is something you almost forget about until it comes around again. You forget what it's like to be a local during the end all be all tourist time of year for this area.

This is also the first year that I recall where I actually went out and attempted to get things done like grocery shopping and errands. Every street I needed to be on was blocked off. But I learned to navigate well enough.

As a local, you start out in the season looking forward to seeing marching bands and floats. But then you realize that people camp out over night just to get a good spot to set up ladders for their children to catch beads and toys from the floats. You're not ready to spend a whole day in preparation for one parade or even two in a row, not equipped with beer coolers, umbrellas or lawn chairs. Every time I saw a parade, it was only in passing, on my way to other things.

People always bring up the irony of Mardi Gras, how we fight over worthless plastic baubles that end up in some box in the attic or thrown out the next week. How our entire lives are upheaved whether we attend the parades or not by people in search of such things. One passerby I over heard said they should just call it Mardi Tits. Of course, this was earlier today, the day everyone dresses up in the most outrageous costumes, some of which include full frontal nudity for women and rear nudity for men.

And this is true, the irony of the season. But I actually appreciate that we are willing to attach meaning to items whose long term purpose is forgotten. So often we cling to objects and attach meaning to them when it isn't called for, when it makes us consumerism addicts and refuses to let us just have cut loose fun time. While I am an avid churchgoer at a church in the Quarter whose members live here and usually go on prayer walks in the Quarter (which means they pray silently to themselves as they walk over the area, not to be mistaken with the people who come in one time a year to shove their beliefs down your throat while you're in line for beer on Bourbon Street) during Mardi Gras, I see nothing wrong with going out and watching all the mayhem. I do not show my tits, but I do tend to pick tighter fitting shirts when go into the Quarter for Mardi Gras. I do not wear beads at all, even when they're thrown to me. I do not drink the piss beer that is offered by the gallon. I just go to see everyone else and have a good laugh. That to me, is what Mardi Gras means.

The above writeup is a good introduction into this fantastic holiday, found at the end of the Carnival season. One detail it does neglect, however, is just when exactly Mardi Gras is held.

In the spirit of Noding For The Ages, and in order to facilitate your future planning needs, I've compiled a list of future Mardi Gras dates below. To determine the date of Mardi Gras, you must first determine the date of Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox. It can be anywhere from March 23 to April 25. Mardi Gras, always the day before Ash Wednesday, falls 47 days prior to Easter (40 days of Lent + 7 Sundays). This means Mardi Gras can fall on any Tuesday between February 3 and March 9.

Year - Date Of Mardi Gras | Year - Date of Mardi Gras
| 2001 - February 27 | 2026 - February 17 |
| 2002 - February 12 | 2027 - February 9  |
| 2003 - March 4     | 2028 - February 28 |
| 2004 - February 24 | 2029 - February 13 |
| 2005 - February 8  | 2030 - March 5     |
| 2006 - February 28 | 2031 - February 25 |
| 2007 - February 20 | 2032 - February 10 |
| 2008 - February 5  | 2033 - March 1     |
| 2009 - February 24 | 2034 - February 21 |
| 2010 - February 16 | 2035 - February 6  |
| 2011 - March 8     | 2036 - February 26 |
| 2012 - February 21 | 2037 - February 17 |
| 2013 - February 12 | 2038 - March 9     |
| 2014 - March 4     | 2039 - February 22 |
| 2015 - February 17 | 2040 - February 14 |
| 2016 - February 9  | 2041 - March 5     |
| 2017 - February 26 | 2042 - February 18 |
| 2018 - February 13 | 2043 - February 10 |
| 2019 - March 5     | 2044 - March 1     |
| 2020 - February 25 | 2045 - February 21 |
| 2021 - February 16 | 2046 - February 6  |
| 2022 - March 1     | 2047 - February 26 |
| 2023 - February 21 | 2048 - February 18 |
| 2024 - February 13 | 2049 - March 2     |
| 2025 - March 4     | 2050 - February 22 |

Mid-February Mardi Gras celebrations often inspire Valentine's Day-esque float themes and heart-shaped decorations. Years when Mardi Gras falls in March mean that the weather will generally be a bit warmer, especially at night. Also, knowing which week/weekends to book good hotel rooms (if you're a tourist) well in advance can be useful. If you're a local (to whichever city is under consideration, typically New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, though Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has larger celebrations), you can block off weeks on your calendar when you'll be unable to accomplish much of anything due to the throngs of irritating drunken tourists. Of course, if you're local, you won't need this chart, but that's beside the point.

Regardless, it just seemed that this information was begging for inclusion in The Database. Enjoy.

New Orleans measures its Mardi Gras crowd population by the tonnage of trash left behind. 200 tons is a good year. Success is rated by the number of arrests, and how much money you made during this period, subtracted by what you have to pay out in cleanup, repairs (car, building, personal) and the cost of any upcoming court appearances you may or may not have to make.

bonboard adds a good writeup, and it's close enough to be accurate for our purposes, but to be really accurate, I'll add this bit I found on the web (edited):

The commonly stated rule, that Easter Day is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs next after the vernal equinox, is somewhat misleading because it is not a precise statement of the actual ecclesiastical rules.

The actual conditions to determine the date for Easter are:

  • Easter must be on a Sunday.
  • This Sunday must follow the 14th day of the paschal moon.
  • The paschal moon is that of which the 14th day (full moon) falls on or next follows the day of the vernal equinox.
  • The equinox is fixed in the calendar as March 21. Easter can never occur before March 22 or later than April 25.

In order that the date for Easter be incontrovertibly fixed, and determinable indefinitely in advance, the Church constructed special tables for calculating the time of the paschal moon. There are three major differences to note between the ecclesiastical system and the astronomical system.

  • The 14th day of the paschal moon is not necessarily identical to the time of astronomical full moon. The ecclesiastical tables do not account for the full complexity of the lunar motion.
  • The vernal equinox has a precise astronomical definition determined by the actual motion of the Sun. It is the precise time at which the apparent longitude of the Sun is zero degrees. The actual date varies very slightly from year to year. In the ecclesiastical system the vernal equinox is fixed at March 21 regardless of the actual motion of the Sun.
  • The date of Easter is a specific calendar date. Easter starts when that date starts for your time zone. Astronomical phenomena occurs at a specific date and time all over the Earth at once.

--from the Astronomical Applications Department, US Naval Observatory

It is therefore possible, from a technical standpoint, that different parts of the world may celebrate Easter in a different week, but when it comes to Mardi Gras, we're too drunk to care. We're too drunk to do laundry, go grocery shopping, eat, remember where we parked, think, or do anything but drool on our shoes and piss in an alley.

The biggest misconception about Mardi Gras in New Orleans is that it is all about tits and beer. The flashing is a very small part of Mardi Gras, but gets the most attention nationally. On the majority, Mardi Gras is a good family atmosphere. During Mardi Gras crime rates drop and people come together to watch the parades.

The parades are each made up of Krewes. Krewes are usually selective clubs in which membership fees are quite expensive, and the members get the privilege of riding on a float in a parade. Krewes usually try to get a celebrity to be the captain of their parade. Some examples are Harry Connick Jr. Nicolas Cage, Jay Leno, etc...

Families usually stake out spots on parade route early in the day, and set up ladders with special seats on top for children to sit in so they can catch beads being thrown from the floats easily. A sea of ladders lining all the way down St. Charles Avenue is a sight to behold.

You will rarely see anyone flashing on a parade route. But you will see lots of vendors walking down selling glow necklaces and other trinkets, Snap Pops being the favorite of many kids. Mardi Gras is, on the most part, a safe and fun environment, as long as you stay away from Bourbon Street.

Mar"di` gras" (?), n. [F., literally, fat Tuesday.]

The last day of Carnival; Shrove Tuesday; -- in some cities a great day of carnival and merrymaking.


© Webster 1913.

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