History of Mardi Gras


When I first moved to New Orleans, a couple of church planters invited me to a Mardi Gras parade. A little surprised and uneasy, I said I would check with my wife. My idea of Mardi Gras was what I had seen on T.V. and it would make any pastor blush. What I learned, however, was that there was a very different story to Mardi Gras with the residents of New Orleans.

History of Mardi Gras

Although Mardi Gras can be traced back to European medieval times, historians believe that the first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699, when the French explorers Iberville and Bienville landed in Louisiana 60 miles downriver of New Orleans. Realizing it was the Eve of Mardi Gras, they held a celebration and named the spot Point du Mardi Gras.

In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile (Mobile, Alabama) celebrated North America's very first organized Mardi Gras. New Orleans was established in 1718 and by 1730 Mardi Gras was openly celebrated in the city. In the years that followed, as New Orleans was transitioning between France, Spain, and finally the United States, the city began marking the holiday with much more emphasis and pageantry. Krewes (organized private clubs) began electing a Rex (a carnival King), assembling street parades and hosting masked balls and festive dinners.

Mardi Gras and Carnival are the same celebration. The Carnival season actually begins on Epiphany, a Christian holiday celebrated on January 6 that remembers the three Wise Men bringing gifts to baby Jesus. Mardi Gras is technically “Fat Tuesday,” the day when everyone practices overindulgence before Ash Wednesday, partying before repentance. The feast before the fast. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day season of fasting leading up to Easter.

As part of New Orleans' Orthodox Christian tradition, the coming of the Wise Men bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. This marks the beginning of Epiphany. A popular custom was and still is the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings, called "A King's Cake." From the beginning of Mardi Gras season, Jan 6, until Ash Wednesday you will find traditional King Cakes in homes, offices, and shipped all over the world as gifts.

Today during Mardi Gras, parades are all over the city and are virtually non-stop. Louisiana is the only State that has an official “Mardi Gras” Holiday. Many of the parades are neighborhood celebrations with entire families participating. Only during Mardi Gras can you catch beads, plastic gold doubloons, vegetables, purses, shoes, and coconuts during a parade. Mardi Gras has more than just historical ties to New Orleans; it generates a tremendous amount of revenue for the City. Currently, an average of 1.2 million visitors attend Mardi Gras Celebrations. The direct economic impact is approximately 840 million dollars annually.

Hope in Mardi Gras

My perception and understanding of Mardi Gras has completely changed over the last six years. Generally speaking, in New Orleans there are two crowds participating in Mardi-Gras: those who tend to participate in the more provocative parades New Orleans is famous for, and those who tend to participate in community and neighborhood parades that are more family friendly.

Life in New Orleans is really one long season of celebration, but Mardi Gras is the climax of all celebrations. This season of celebration and fasting is a great reminder of the greatest Ash Wednesday ever, the day Christ took on sin at Calvary, removing our guilt and shame once and for all. There can be no greater celebration of this truth than the resurrection of Jesus! Join me in praying for the many residents of New Orleans this Mardi Gras season. Pray they see past religious traditions that do not save and see the living hope of the gospel that brings new life. That is a reason to celebrate!

Highlighting Mardi Gras

If you are looking for more fun facts hand history about Mardi Gras or you just want to order a King Cake, check out these links.

Fun Facts about Mardi Gras

Dong Phuong King Cake

Manny Randazzo King Cake

Gambino’s Bakery King Cake

Get to Know New Orleans: Key Stats and Rankings

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Economic Development

  • DXC Technology was awarded the Silver Medal for #2 Economic Development Deal in America [Business Facilities]
  • Greater New Orleans is #1 for the Decade for Economic Development Wins in the South [SB&D]
  • Greater New Orleans was named #2 Most Cost-Friendly Mid-Sized Market in the USA [KPMG]
  • Louisiana was ranked #5 Best Business Conditions in the USA [Site Selection]
  • Louisiana was ranked #5 Fastest Growing Software Sector in America [software.org]
  • Greater New Orleans is the “Fastest Growing Tech Cluster in America” [Area Development]
  • Greater New Orleans is #1 in the USA for Export Growth, over 400% [US Chamber of Commerce]
  • MSY / New Orleans International is the #2 Fastest Growing Airport in America, 2006-2016 [FAA]
  • New Orleans was named the #1 City (of 475) for Employment, Income, and Population [NerdWallet]
  • Greater New Orleans is the #3 Big City Winning the IT Jobs Battle (after Silicon Valley and S.F.) [Forbes]
  • Port of South Louisiana is the #1 Largest in the Western Hemisphere [Fairplay]
  • Louisiana is one of the Best States to Operate a Small Business, meriting a grade of “A.” [The Economist]

 Talent / Workforce

  •  New Orleans was ranked #1 on the list of “America's Biggest Brain Magnets” [Forbes]
  • New Orleans is the #1 Fastest Growing “Traditional City” in America [Public Square / U.S. Census]
  • Louisiana’s FastStart training program ranked #1 in the USA eight years in a row [Business Facilities]
  • Greater New Orleans is #5 in the USA for In-Migration of Millennials [Urban Land Institute]
  • Greater New Orleans is Top 5 in the USA for increasing share of “Millennial (22-34) Jobs” [CareerBuilder]
  • Greater New Orleans ranks #2 in the in the USA for Women in Technology Jobs [U.S. Census]
  • The New Orleans metro area is #1 in the USA for in-migration of international residents [U.S. Census]
  • The Greater New Orleans market is ranked #8 for Happiest Workers in USA [Forbes]


  • New Orleans is the “Best City in America for Creative Professionals” [SmartAsset]
  • Greater New Orleans is #2 in the USA for Growth in Knowledge Industries [EMSI]
  • New Orleans is ranked #5 in USA for Women in Tech [SmartAsset]
  • New Orleans is the #5 city where entrepreneurship is booming [Entrepreneur]
  • Louisiana was rated the #2 State in the USA to Start a Company [Tax Foundation + KPMG]

Culture and Quality of Life

  •  New Orleans is the #1 Place to Go in the World in 2018 [New York Times]
  • New Orleans is the #1 Best Place for a Big Trip in 2018 in the World [Thrillist]
  • New Orleans is the #2 Favorite City in America [Travel + Leisure]
  • New Orleans is a “Most Dynamic City in America” [Worth]
  • New Orleans is #1 City in America for Growth in International Tourists [US Dept. of Commerce]
  • New Orleans was named “America’s Best City for School Reform” [Thomas B. Fordham Institute]



New Orleans Top 5: Audubon and Feret (Uptown)


Send New Orleans is actively praying Luke 10:2 for neighborhoods and communities in New Orleans that are in need of a gospel witness. Realizing the greatest way to impact a community is through evangelism, disciple-making, and church planting, we are praying for passionate church planters and kingdom-minded partnering churches to adopt one of our top 5 specific locations in New Orleans to plant a church. 

“He told them, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2, CSB)

Summer of 2018 saw sixteen college students move to New Orleans for seven weeks to serve in with Gen Send. The North American Mission Board Gen Send program brings college students from across North America to urban cities in the Send Network. College students spend seven weeks working with the city missionary and church planters to learn, contextualize, and map neighborhoods that are potential locations for future church plants. Gen Send students are trained to use the book Tradecraft to compile missiological data and community information. 

The 2018 students did an outstanding job of providing a prospectus for the Audobon and Feret Uptown area of New Orleans. Their prospectus, included below, includes a trove of contextual data and missiological information that will help the next church planter and sending church considering this area of New Orleans. 

Audubon and Feret Prospectus 

Send New Orleans Overview City Information

If you would like more information about Church Planting in New Orleans email George Ross at gross@namb.net.