Mardi Gras —Fat Tuesday, in English—is all about carnival. The last day before the Christian fasting period of Lent, it was traditionally the final chance for people to eat enjoyable food—rich, sweet and fattening.
The festival is by no means celebrated everywhere in America, but for those locations with an ethnically French background, Mardis Gras is very significant—and nowhere more than in New Orleans. With the first celebration in the city held in 1837, New Orleans and Mardi Gras became indelibly connected. By the end of the Victorian era, New Orleans newspapers were even printing special Carnival editions
Across New Orleans, parades of elaborately costumed revellers will take over the city streets in what is known as the “Greatest Free Show on Earth”. These color photographs of just such festivities were taken in the 1960s and 1970s for LIFE magazine by Ernst Haas.