OPINION | No Mardi Gras, now what?

Robert Chumbley, Staff Writer

Elana Bush | Photo Editor

When New Orleans city officials euthanized Mardi Gras 2021 in November 2020 by cancelling the following year’s parades, a group of stunned onlookers gaped in dismay and indignation as the very spirit of New Orleans was threatened. If there ever was an American settlement conceived in sin and shaped in iniquity, it was New Orleans. The practice of Carnival has been the beating heart of this iniquity for hundreds of years.

In the old days, it took a world war or secession to make New Orleanians skip the parades. Unfortunately, these are the new days and there is a new normal. Alas, Mardi Gras’ spirit was no match for COVID-19. 

The last time parades were cancelled, Walter Mondale was the vice president of the U.S. and disco music remained in its glorious heyday. The year was 1979, and the New Orleans  Police Department came out in force, driving krewe captains to nix their own parades in the hope of avoiding involvement in the police labor dispute. Because the impetus then was political and not virological, revelers guiltlessly took to the streets anyway and turned the city upside down in a fittingly saturnalian frenzy.

No doubt, in the eyes of some Tulane University students, the worst thing to come of the parade cancellation is the lack of this year’s festivities. The usual plans and questions of what to do during Carnival season, which parades and parties to attend will be superseded by new intimations of a more clandestine tone, colored by disapproving looks and snarky remarks from those not flouting public health guidelines.

This is a potentially worrying development for Louisiana natives like myself, because the Mardi Gras festivities, usually such a convenient tool for distracting out-of-state tourists from the more taboo practices of our culture, will no longer be available as an alibi. Genuine and total political chaos may break out when the Californians find out what the Cajuns traditionally do to chickens around this time of year.

It is crucial to note that the economic repercussions on the city and people of New Orleans, due to the cancellation of Mardi Gras, will be considerable. Already ravaged by the merciless pandemic, the local tourism industry will miss out on what, in usual years, would be a bonanza of hotel, restaurant and shop traffic. Still, New Orleanians are among the most resilient people in this country. Innovations and new technologies like house floats do help keep the Mardi Gras spirit alive. 

It may be that proclamations of the death of Mardi Gras are a bit hasty after all. Even if it was tragically cancelled in November, we can hold out our hopes that, with a little NOLA magic, locals will resurrect the holiday in a way befitting this year’s struggles.