[Image(s) Provided by Jeff Boudreaux]

January 6: Twelfth Night (or Day One of the 2018 Mardi Gras Season)

11:08 January 03, 2018
By: Jeff Boudreaux

The 2018 Mardi Gras season will hold a particularly special meaning for New Orleans, as it just so happens to coincide with our great city’s tricentennial. That’s right, 300 years of nurturing and embellishing a one-of-a-kind celebration that reportedly began even more than 300 years ago, in 1699, when Iberville and Bienville landed just south of New Orleans at a spot they anointed “Point du Mardi Gras.” While we’ve come a very long way since that surely small get-together, the ideas are the same—abundant revelry and cheer (not unlike a theoretical New Year’s Eve which lasts several weeks), culminating on Fat Tuesday, an embodiment of the biblical precept of “eat, drink, and be merry,” which, of course, directly precedes the Catholic, auto-reversing tradition of Lenten fasting.

As for Twelfth Night, also known as the eve of the Epiphany, it is the date in Christianity (including Catholicism) which signifies the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. And since it is a day for feasting (let’s be honest, isn’t Mardi Gras just one big feast?), you can understand why you’re not supposed to eat those delectable king cakes until this very day, while reflecting on who that little plastic baby that’s broken countless teeth throughout the years represents. See how it all comes full circle?

Also emanating from the city’s (un)official religion is the birthday of Saint Joan of Arc, the appropriately-dubbed “Maid of Orleans” and patron saint of New Orleans, which is also celebrated on Saturday, January 6. What better way can there be to kick off the 2018 Mardi Gras season than the 10th annual horse-and-foot procession in her honor, traipsing down the streets of the French Quarter starting at 6 p.m. The parade begins at the corner of Decatur and Toulouse, but be sure to check out the sword-blessing at St. Louis Cathedral by Father Philip Landry before the parade reaches its end at Jackson Square with a bring-your-own king cake ceremony. This will be followed by the King’s Day (another term for Twelfth Night) fireworks display, which follows at 9 p.m. on the riverfront.

Can’t make it out to the parade? Or maybe you just want to check out some other events for the first official day of Carnival? Whatever your plans are, there are an abundance of other events around town on this very special day:

<em>January 6</em>: Twelfth Night (or Day One of the 2018 Mardi Gras Season)

Dong Phuong King Cake Carnival—As I alluded to earlier, there are a few omens in play that say you’re not supposed to eat king cake before this first day of the season. For a city steeped in voodoo, gris-gris, and all sorts of superstitions, why chance it? Especially when you can just head on over to Pizza Nola’s parking lot (located at 141 Harrison Ave.) on Saturday morning from 8 to 10 a.m. and buy delicious cakes directly from the Dong Phuong bakery while listening to live music from Benny Grunch and the Bunch. You can even pick up your king cake here for tonight’s parade. Now that’s what I would consider a good omen!

<em>January 6</em>: Twelfth Night (or Day One of the 2018 Mardi Gras Season)

Metairie Carnival Kickoff Celebration—It’s a short ride from Lakeview to Metairie, and you might even have time for a nap (you know, for all of that king cake carb overload!) before setting up a spot on the Veterans Boulevard neutral ground next to Severn (the yearly site of Family Gras). There you can enjoy a free concert at 2 p.m., including performances by Big Sam’s Funky Nation and the Grace King High School Marching Band, with some Mardi Gras kings and queens joining the celebration along with an appearance by the mascot of the New Orleans Baby Cakes. And now the name change makes sense, doesn’t it?

<em>January 6</em>: Twelfth Night (or Day One of the 2018 Mardi Gras Season)

Chris Owens’s Twelfth Night Party—This is where you start having some choices to make, if you also want to attend the Joan of Arc parade. One of the most familiar presences in the French Quarter, the legendary Chris Owens, will be hosting one heck of a party at the Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture (1010 Conti St.). There will be king cake (naturally), champagne, and live entertainment by David Cook and The Yat Pack from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 online at www.kreweofstars.com/chrisowens and $35 at the door.

<em>January 6</em>: Twelfth Night (or Day One of the 2018 Mardi Gras Season)

St. John Fools of Misrule—This North Shore marching club traces its roots all the way back to 1813 in the historic St. John District of Old Covington. If you ask me, these guys have the right idea starting their annual procession at the Columbia Street Tap Room (434 N. Columbia St.) at 6 p.m. How could you possibly go wrong? Wait … don’t answer that. Whatever goes down, just know it’ll be a smashing good time!

<em>January 6</em>: Twelfth Night (or Day One of the 2018 Mardi Gras Season)

Phunny Phorty Phellows—If you’re in the mood to take part in a 37-year-old tradition that’s free of charge, head on over to the St. Charles Avenue streetcar route for 7 p.m., where you can watch a group of rowdy revelers show you how it’s done, publicly partying aboard a chartered streetcar from South Carrollton at Willow to Canal Street and back. Although the ride is for members only, the well-wishers on the neutral ground have a habit of bringing their own party to the tracks!

<em>January 6</em>: Twelfth Night (or Day One of the 2018 Mardi Gras Season)

The Société des Champs Elysée—This was fashioned as the Society of Elysian Fields’s response to the Phunny Phorty Phellows, but it just happened to grow from there. While this ride begins at 7:30 p.m. on the St. Claude Avenue streetcar and ventures all the way down Loyola and back, it’s the bookending events that manage to set this particular ride apart. The fun begins in Buffa’s Back Room (1001 Esplanade Ave.) at 6 p.m. for a concert by Treme’s resident jazz pianist Davis Rogan, featuring Mr. “Carnival Time” himself, New Orleans’s own R&B legend, Al Johnson. Immediately following the streetcar’s return will be a masked ball at the Siberia Lounge (2227 St. Claude Ave.) with entertainment by the Mid-City Aces, Al Johnson, and the Elysian Brass Band. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Talk about going all out!

As you can see, there is certainly no shortage of fun and festivities to kick off Mardi Gras, whether you’re knowingly taking part in one of the most time-honored rituals in the world or just simply looking for a reason to party. After all, it’ll be almost a week since the last one.

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