If you haven’t already been to Mardi Gras, you’ve at least heard of it. It’s the oldest annual Carnival celebration in the U.S., giving a night of fun before the season of Lent begins. Many people think it’s a New Orleans tradition. However, Mobile is the original home of Mardi Gras, with celebrations just steps away from many Mobile apartments.
Mardi Gras’ History in Mobile
Mobile’s Mardi Gras roots go all the way back to 1703 with an impromptu celebration held by a group of French soldiers. A year later, Nicholas Langlois started the Société de Saint Louis organization along with the first masked ball, Masque de la Mobile. In 1711, the first parade was held. Over the next hundred years, Mobile’s interest faded and New Orleans soon adopted the traditions. After the Civil War, citizens started the tradition up again in 1867. Mobile’s been partying every year since.
Mobile’s Local Spin on Mardi Gras
Though Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebrations include the parades, masked balls, drinks and — of course! — beads that New Orleans’ does, they have some city-specific distinctions. While New Orleans has the reputation of getting a little rowdy, Mobile is known to keep things more family-oriented. You’re also likely to get a Moon Pie, a Southern favorite that’s now a Twitter favorite, thrown at you along with the beads and candy.
Honoring Mobile’s History
Mobile’s celebrations start two weeks before Ash Wednesday, offering locals and tourists alike 38 parades along with many other activities. A local favorite is the Joe Cain Procession, the “people’s parade” celebrating the Mobile man who helped revive Mardi Gras in1867. The parade takes place the Sunday before Fat Tuesday and is led by a local man portraying Cain.
Though it may not be the famous Carnival location, Mobile takes pride in its Mardi Gras heritage. They draw crowds of thousands every year, so they must be doing something right.
Text by Nick Adrian