Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, a time of king cakes, colored beads, and many thousands of people gathered on floats along New Orleans’s city streets will—like many things—not look the same this coming year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Parades of any kind have been banned by the city of New Orleans for the 2021 festive season.
“With COVID-19 cases increasing around the country, we will have to modify how to observe carnival season to be safe for everyone. Experts are predicting a ‘winter spike’ in cases in December and January—right when our carnival calendars get rolling. We have done an amazing job flattening the curve—and hopefully it will stay that way through the winter—but we are surrounded by hot spots and we don’t know what the future holds in store for us,” the New Orleans mayor’s office said in a statement.
While parades will be off limits, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has called on the city’s residents to offer ideas for how to celebrate safely.
New Orleans “cannot cancel Mardi Gras because it is a religious holiday, however we will not be able to celebrate the holiday this year as we have in the past,” the city said in an online FAQs about Mardi Gras 2021.
Regarding possible celebrations, the mayor has asked residents to submit suggestions (which can be submitted via email to email@example.com by December 5, 2020) that consider whether the recommended festivities might create unstructured crowds and could take place outside with social-distancing measures in place, among other factors.
Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday or Carnival, lands on February 16, 2021, this coming year and the corresponding festivities traditionally begin on January 6 (also known as the Twelfth Night or Feast of the Epiphany). It’s meant to be an indulgent prelude to Lent, a six-week-long religious fast observed before Easter. Some of the most well-known celebrations take place in New Orleans, Brazil, and Italy.
Mardi Gras is a huge draw for visitors to New Orleans, approximately 1.4 million of whom typically descend on the city for the holiday’s parades and revelry. But the city has also asked residents to consider options for the 2021 season that will keep celebrations local and reduce the risk of “importing” COVID-19 from external hot spots.
“A COVID-19 vaccine will not be readily available until after Mardi Gras,” the city reminds residents and visitors.
In a statement, Krewe of Orpheus, a Mardi Gras super krewe, said it was surprised by the ban on parades. It said that the mayor had met with the Mardi Gras Advisory Committee, which consists of representatives of all the Carnival krewes, and “requested that we come up with proposals for a safe Carnival celebration.”
The Krewe of Orpheus said that it was in the process of gathering ideas that it had been asked to present to the mayor on December 5, 2020. “There was no directive given about canceling parades,” the Krewe of Orpheus stated.
It asked members for patience as it determined its next steps and noted that it would be communicating plans about the 2022 parade season in the near future.