Tag Archives: New Orleans

Mardi Gras

Text (festival)

“A week-long festival celebrating New Orlean’s culture and heritage.”


My informant has lived in Louisiana for 4 years and attended the Mardi Gras festival two times.

Q: “What exactly is Mardi Gras?”

A: “The celebration originated in New Orleans and people travel from all across the country to celebrate Mardi Gras here in New Orleans. Basically, it’s a week-long festival/series of parades that happens at the beginning of January lasting until Fat Tuesday right before Ash Wednesday.”

Q: “What is the significance of the celebration?”

A: “It’s essentially a ‘last hoorah’ before lent so it’s the last time you indulge, drinking, eating sweets, especially king’s cake, before you give it up for lent.”


Mardi Gras is a French phrase meaning “Fat Tuesday” translated into English. This comes from the custom of using up all of the fats in the home before lent in preparation for fasting and abstinence. Important families will create floats and dress up in extravagant glittery costumes driving the float around the city throwing out beads, coconuts, candy, etc. There is jazz music, performers, and people in costumes. New Orleans has a lot of French culture stemming from the Louisiana Purchase which gave the United States new land, including New Orleans. People typically dress up in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green. People not coming from “important” New Orleans families will typically just wear comfortable clothes aligning with the Mardi Gras colors and walking shoes as they’ll be outside walking a lot. Different parades are happening throughout the week at different times and the streets are filled with people in celebration. The celebration marks the beginning of Lent, a yearly 40-day fasting period leading up to easter. This is exemplary of the connection between festivals and yearly cycles/the calendar as well as religious folklore. Festivals are often symbolic of cyclical time and the calendar year as Lent is a practice occurring yearly in Christian communities and the festival serves as an opportunity to commemorate and celebrate Christian practices and beliefs. Larry Danielson, a religious folklorist explores these themes of religious rituals and practices including communal groups participating in religious originating festivals representative of shared belief. Mardi Gras specifically has Catholic roots and people use festivals as a way to come together and provide a more deep appreciation and nuanced understanding of religious tradition.

Marie Laveau

–Informant Info–

Nationality: American

Age: 87

Occupation: Unemployed

Residence: Los Angeles, California

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): French

(Notes-The informant will be referred to as JW and the interviewer as K)

Background info: JW is a father and grandfather who was born and raised in New Orleans, moving to Los Angeles to follow his son, whom he now resides with. I was told this story in the evening in a room that JM made “purposefully spooky”

K: So whats the name of the folklore, where did you hear it, and when is it like told?

JW: *laughter* Well miss, it’s a true story about a voodoo queen named Marie Laveau. Everyone just knows it, some say that’s part of her magic still at work, that no one can forget her. *laughter*

K: *laughter* Ok so, whenever you’re ready! Go into as much or as little detail as you want

JW: You sure miss? It gets gruesome

K: Part of the charm of folklore

JW: *laughter* you right you right. Miss Marie Laveau was a voodoo queen *stretches out the word queen for emphasis*. She could do anythin under our God-given sun, even make herself live twice as long *smiles*. She was-she was said to curse those who had wronged her in the most brutal ways. I remember when I was a boy an uh…one of my friends told me that his great somethin grandma was cursed by Miss Laveau. She had stolen something from her shop, so Miss Laveau stole somethin from her…*long pause* her right hand! The one that did the snatchin! *laughter*. That’s the kinda stuff she did, so everyone with half a mind was smart enough not to cross her. It’s said that to this day if you visit her grave, you can get a wish granted if you leave her somethin nice.

It was really interesting to hear a more well-known bit of folklore be told from an original point of view. What I mean by that is JM is from New Orleans, and although Marie Laveau is known from more popular culture like American Horror Story, this telling was drastically different than the one in the aforementioned television show. I also thought it was important to note the joy in which this story was told to me. JM was laughing regularly as he told me the story, even the more grisly parts of it. He set up the room I was speaking to him in a traditionally scary way, but when it came to the story it was as if he couldn’t contain his joy. The story obviously had lost its scare factor as people get older. He notes being scared by the version his friend told him when he was younger but laughed telling me it.

The Ghost of Chloe

The Story (over Zoom):
There’s a plantation called Myrtle’s that was a South Louisiana plantation outside of New Orleans that General Bradford, who was a famous general, owned. He, like many plantation owners, was sexually assaulting a slave in the house and her name was Chloe. So he had a relationship with Chloe. And Chloe got caught eavesdropping on the family. She was outside a room listening in, and to punish her they cut off her ears. Or maybe an ear. And so to get revenge she slowly poisoned the wife and children of the guy by, in the kitchen, poisoning food. And when she was caught doing that, she was killed, she was hung. And so, Myrtle’s plantation is said to still be haunted by her, if you go to the plantation in South Louisiana and go on tours, they’ll tell you about sightings of Chloe… And she had worn a scarf around her head after her ears were cut off, so y’know, you couldn’t see, and people knew the ghost was Chloe because the ghost has that green scarf on her head.

Context (as given by the informant):
When I was in middle school we did a tour of South Louisiana, a history tour where we went to different places, and that was one of the stories that we heard, that people regularly saw her ghost. If you take a tour there today they’ll tell you the story of Chloe.
The story is a way white guilt about the history of slavery gets manifest. It gets manifest in a way that is indirect, and frames Chloe as at fault.

The story is definitely intertwined with histories of oppression, and it both reflects and documents some of the injustices that occurred in the plantation era south. The use of the story as a tourist attraction is also interesting, as Myrtle plantation (and by association, Chloe) has been commercialized.

Mardi Gras Cups

Main Piece:

SG has been to Mardi Gras almost every year since she was a little kid. Decorated plastic cups are a typical throw in every Mardi Gras Parade. Parades, known as Krewes to the locals, each have a unique name and theme to them. Riders in each parade have “throws”, which are items riders throw off of floats. These commonly include beads and doubloons, but what is solemnly talked about is cups. Cups are a collectible item during Mardi Gras as they have more value than most other throws. Not only can you keep it as a memorate of a parade, but you can use it for years to come. Families collect these and use them as normal drinking vessels in their homes and lives. Go in any cabinet and next to the glass cups you will find various Mardi Gras cups themed to each parade.

A Swig of History: The Mardi Gras Cup | Where Y'at


SG is my mother and has been to Mardi Gras with kids since I was born. She is from New Orleans and attends every year. This was taken during a conversation with her in our backyard while reminiscing Mardi Gras. She still collects cups and send me them each year.


As a New Orleanian and a avid fan of Mardi Gras, as I have been many times before, I did not realize that this was not much of a practice outside of New Orleans, collecting cups to use throughout the years. For instance, after my first year at USC, I missed Mardi Gras for the first time in my life. As a response I got my parents to ship me a King Cake and some decorated cups. In the house I was living in, I used them frequently, and people always commented on the designs on the cups calling them unique. I was so used to using the cups that I never took a moment to think about the designs. Each design reflects the idea of that parade. Krewe D’etat, a parade devoted to a satirical take on the previous year, would have cups that mock events from the last year. Krewe of Muses, an all female parade, would have cups with feminine symbols such as the iconic red lips symbol of the krewe. Each design is unique and can only be gotten if one attended that parade in that year.

Muses Decorated Heels

Main Piece:

According to EG, a resident of New Orleans, Muses is one of the first all female parades in Mardi Gras. To set it apart from the other parades they started throwing decorated heels. Each rider decorates their own shoes and put their spin on them, with glitter, writing, and designs. It turns into a pretty sculpture of a shoe. Each rider decorates 10-12 shoes and throws them off of their float during the parade. She has caught 3 shoes in her time at Mardi Gras and she considers it a symbol of New Orleans Mardi Gras. Because of muses other parades have started to throw other items like it. Other parades like the Krewe of Tucks and the Krewe of Nyx throw decorated toilet plungers and purses respectively.


EG is a college aged resident of New Orleans. She was born there and has lived there her entire life. This was collected in a conversation at my home. She has been to Mardi Gras every year since her birth and considers it to be a central part of her life.


I, also being a resident from New Orleans, understand this piece of folklore very well. The heels thrown from the float are a sub-genre of what is know as throws, or things float riders throw off a float during a parade. Beads and Doubloons are what people mainly consider as Mardi Gras throws, but there are many more. Cups, spears, and as EG mentioned, heels and other decorated items are all throws that separate one parade from another. I think the main reason for these throws is that each has a distinct item that not only tells a story of the rider and the parade, but something you can only get if you participate in or go to the parade during the season.