Mardi Gras refers to Fat Tuesday, but there is a whole season leading up to the big day. It kicks off on Twelfth Night which is on or around Joan of Arc’s birthday. A newer parade to the Mardi Gras line-up is the Joan of Arc parade started in 2008. It rolls in the French Quarter while Phunny Phorty Phellows goes across town in a streetcar.
It is my favorite parade. If I am lucky, it isn’t bitterly cold. Some years are stingingly cold. The parade follows the life of young Joan in 1400s France to martyr, to saint. Different sub-krewes represent the different periods of her life. In between, there is much chanting and singing, like a rolling Renaissance Faire.
The procession is just the right amount of disorienting and lovely to start the season. The walking parade spills around dark corners of the French Quarter to the beat of a giant drum played by a skeleton. One woman portrays Joan as the statue given to the city by France in the 1970s. There are jugglers and stilt walkers and 100 angels.
Like many of the newer parades, the throws are mostly hand made. Some lucky kids get wooden swords and most get votive candles and prayer cards.