On February 27th 1827, a group of masked and costumed students dance through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana. This marked the beginning of the city’s famous Mardi Gras celebrations.

The celebration of Carnival (or the weeks between Twelfth Night on January 6 and Ash Wednesday- the beginning of the Christian period of Lent) spread from Rome across Europe and later to the Americas. Nowhere in the United States is Carnival celebrated as grandly as in New Orleans, famous for its over-the-top parades and parties for Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday), the last day of the Carnival season.

French settlers brought the tradition of Mardi Gras to Louisiana at the end of the 17th century. Spanish governors of the province later banned the celebrations. After Louisiana became part of the United States in 1803, the people of New Orleans managed to convince the city council to lift the ban on wearing masks and partying in the streets. The city’s new Mardi Gras tradition began in 1827 when a group of students were inspired by their experiences studying in Paris, donned masks and jester costumes and staged their own Fat Tuesday festivities.

Nowadays the riders on the floats are usually local citizens who toss “throws” at passersby, including metal coins, stuffed toys or those now-infamous strands of beads. None of the major parades have been allowed to enter the historic French Quarter and Bourbon Street area since 1979 because of its narrow streets.

More Info: www.history.com