Every year New Orleans in Louisiana hosts the biggest Mardi Gras festival in the USA, with the first ever celebration dating back to 1699.
The occasion this year is taking place on 1 March 2022, and will be extra special, as full-dress parades will be returning for the first time since the pandemic hit.
So if you’re able to join the party, here are five surprising things you need to know...
1. The name means Fat Tuesday
Mardis Gras means Fat Tuesday in French. Traditionally, rich, fatty food is eaten before fasting during Lent, which begins the following day, on Ash Wednesday.
2. Everyone throws beads
Watch out, as you may well have some beads hurled at you during Mardi Gras. Make like a local and catch as many as you can and wear them.
The tradition goes back to the 1920s, when the beads were made out of glass and thrown out to the crowds. These days, frisbees, cups, stuffed toys and doubloons are also thrown. Doubloons are aluminium coins modelled on old Spanish gold coins.
3. Decorations are purple, green and gold
Expect people in costumes and buildings to be decorated in purple, green and gold. Purple symbolises justice, green faith and gold power.
4. Cakes have plastic dolls inside
Stuff yourself silly on a King cake, a circular puff pastry filled with almond, cinnamon or strawberry cream and topped with icing. Just make sure you don’t choke on a small plastic doll inside, which represents baby Jesus.
Whoever finds the doll is meant to bake or buy a King cake the following year. You can buy one from La Boulangerie.
5. Hand-painted coconuts are handed out
This tradition dates back to the 1910s, when many members of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club would collect coconuts from the outdoor markets where they worked and hand them out from floats.
The coconuts have got more elaborate over the decades, so now if you’re lucky you might go home with a prized gold or silver painted coconut covered in glitter, beads or feathers.