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New Orleans Celebrates Mardi Gras

2019-3-5

The streets of New Orleans will be filled with people of all ages Tuesday night.

Happy children hope to catch colorful beads thrown from people standing high atop ladders. Many adults are making last-minute changes to bright, colorful costumes, which they will wear as they walk through the city’s French Quarter.

Tuesday marks the final day of the Mardi Gras season, which began on January 6. The term Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday.” French settlers brought the tradition to New Orleans long before it became part of the United States. Historians believe the city’s first Mardi Gras parade took place in 1837. Today, parties and parades take place throughout Mardi Gras season.

Rainy weather affected some parades on Sunday. But the weather Tuesday was expected to be sunny and cold.

The Officer's Float rolls down Napoleon Avenue as the 1,600 men of Bacchus present their 32-float Mardi Gras parade entitled
The Officer's Float rolls down Napoleon Avenue as the 1,600 men of Bacchus present their 32-float Mardi Gras parade entitled "Starring Louisiana" on the Uptown route in New Orleans on Sunday, March 3, 2019. (Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune via AP)

The celebrations started early in the morning. The Northside Skull and Bone Gang walked through the city’s Treme neighborhood before sunrise. The group’s members wore costumes that look like human skeletons. They wake people up to celebrate Mardi Gras.

Then the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club marched along the city’s Saint Charles Avenue. Its members have worn black makeup during the parade in other years. This time, many people criticized the custom after two Virginia politicians admitted to wearing “blackface” when they were younger.

The club released a statement, saying that its members’ costumes are unlike racist “blackface” images from a century ago. It also said the costumes are designed to honor clothing worn by South African Zulu warriors.

Tuesday’s Rex parade is also expected to stop at The Rex House on St. Charles Ave. A fire on February 20 severely damaged the three-floor, 150-year-old building. The home has been an important stop along the Rex parade path since 1907. The Rex parade “king” usually stops at the house during the parade.

The party officially ends at midnight, when the new day begins. Police officials on horses ride down Bourbon Street to ceremonially clear the street, marking the end of the Mardi Gras season.

Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, which for many Christians is a time for fasting and thought ahead of the religious observance of Easter.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Rebecca Santana reported this story for the Associated Press news agency. Jonathan Evans adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

costumes – n. clothes that are worn by someone such as an actor who is trying to look like a different person or thing

ladder – n. a device used for climbing that has two long pieces of wood, metal, or rope with a series of steps between them

fasting – v. to refuse food and drink

bead – n. a small ball or piece of material connected to a wire or string.