Local parade celebrates Mardi Gras history


Maggie Tregre/The Lion's Roar

Mardi Gras season has once again come to Louisiana, and Tangipahoa Parish has already begun to celebrate.

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Louisiana is the only state that recognizes Mardi Gras as a legal holiday.

The first Mardi Gras celebration dates back to the eighteenth century, with historical influences that originated centuries earlier in medieval France. Some of the original celebrations involved parades, and the tradition has held up ever since.

Mardi Gras parades are funded and coordinated by social organizations known as Krewes. Today, there are over 70 Mardi Gras Krewes in New Orleans, with even more in the surrounding parishes of Louisiana.

One of the more distinguishing features of Mardi Gras is the three colors: purple, which represents justice, green for faith and gold for power. These colors can be seen all throughout the season.

New Orleans is known for hosting the biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in the world. They begin several weeks before Fat Tuesday when local Krewes begin hosting exclusive parties and balls. Many krewes keep the identity of their king and queen a secret until Mardi Gras.

Some Mardi Gras traditions are more strict. In New Orleans, those who get to ride on the parade floats are required to wear masks by law. Being seen without a mask on a float can cost a Krewe member their spot in the Krewe and a possible fine of hundreds of dollars.

Tangipahoa Parish’s own Krewe of Omega held its annual parade on Feb. 14. The parade began at the University Center and went down N. General Pershing Street before cruising through downtown Hammond.

The Krewe of Omega was formed in 1986 and has brought Mardi Gras traditions to Tangipahoa Parish ever since. The parade featured members of the Krewe of Omega, community members, local organizations and school and dance groups.

Georgia Canale, a university alumna, has attended the Krewe of Omega Parade for the past several years. She believes that Mardi Gras provides people with the opportunity to celebrate and have fun with their loved ones.

“I think it’s just that we can get together and have friendship and hopefully no problems,” said Canale. “It just gets us all together for a good time to be with our friends and family.”

This year, the Krewe of Omega named three maids, one for each color of Mardi Gras. Canale’s daughter Julie Rock-Chatellier serves as the Green Maid, and her granddaughter Alyssa Rock serves as the Purple Maid. The Gold Maid is Bobbie Bickford.

Parade attendee Noilen Gonzales, a junior psychology major, shared that Mardi Gras can instill a sense of pride for Louisiana residents.

“My favorite part about Mardi Gras is the parades, and coming out and getting some candy and beads, and just the fun of it and the hype,” said Gonzales. “I think because it’s a part of Louisiana’s culture, and being from Louisiana, it’s just something that you do. You do it to have fun, and it’s something that you’re proud of.”

Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to join the Krewe of Omega. Memberships are $350 per year per adult. Members can participate in any Krewe events they wish to be a part of. To become a member, visit kreweofomega.org.