2021 Mardi Gras: Celebrated Differently

2021 Mardi Gras: Celebrated Differently

Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” is a holiday celebrated with rich feasting and lavish celebration before the start of a six-week-long self-reflection period known as Lent where fasting is observed until Easter. This year’s Mardi Gras will take place on February 16th.

Unfortunately, this year the fabulous festivities and parades of Mardi Gras won’t be seen much, least of all in New Orleans, a cultural Mardi Gras capitol. In an effort to stifle the spread of Covid-19, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued temporary restrictions for Mardi Gras celebrations starting from last Friday, February 12th, until this Wednesday, February 17th, at 6 a.m.

The restrictions require all bars in the city to be shuttered for the five-day period. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 individuals while outdoor gatherings are limited to 25, with face masks and social distancing also required. Any street activities that encourage people to congregate, including busking, street performing, and street vending, are banned. Many streets and parts of popular streets will also be shut down from 7 a.m. on Tuesday to 3 a.m. on Wednesday. The New Orleans Police Department will be patrolling the city every day to enforce these restrictions.

These mandates were made in order to prevent a repeat of last year’s Mardi Gras, which attracted over a million people to New Orleans and contributed to a major outbreak, causing the city’s hospitals to reach capacity at the time. Officials hope that this year’s Mardi Gras will not end with the same consequences.

Still, no one is happy with these changes. New Orleans is a tourist-dependent city with hundreds of restaurants, bars, small shops, and hotels relying on revenue from visitors to the city, especially during peak-season — namely Mardi Gras.

Back in 2019, Louisiana attracted nearly 53 million domestic visitors, who spent about $18 billion. Now, according to New Orleans & Company, a company that promotes tourism in the city, New Orleans is currently losing up to $130 million in visitor spending per week because of Covid-19. As the tourism and hospitality industry decline, the latest restrictions are just another blow to businesses struggling to survive.

And while the streets are quieter in New Orleans, families in the community are finding creative ways to celebrate the holiday. Many are trying to continue the celebrations virtually through zoom family calls and TV programs that highlight singing and dancing performances from local New Orleans talent. Some are still going to hang up decorations and wear their costumes at home. And of course, the famous king cake will still be the crowning dish on many people’s dinner tables at home. Because what is Mardi Gras without a king cake?