Mardi Gras is a festival celebrated on the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. It originated in Europe but was brought to North America by the French Canadian explorer Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, who named the land south of New Orleans Pointe du Mardi Gras. The traditional colours of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold (symbolising justice, faith and power), and during the festival masks and costumes of all styles are decorated in these colours.
Mardi Gras Umbrellas Through History
Dancing with a Mardi Gras or "second line" umbrella dates back to jazz funeral processions in late 1800s New Orleans. The funeral parade would weave through the streets under the hot sun, so participants needed parasols for shade. A first line of mourners, consisting of the family and the jazz band, followed the casket, and non-family members would follow. Before the burial the band played a slow, sombre march, but afterward the mourners celebrated life with a dancing parade. Umbrellas, handkerchiefs and purses became props in an energetic dance. The second line parade has become a popular celebration in New Orleans throughout the year, including the Mardi Gras festival.
Buying Mardi Gras Umbrellas
Many online shops sell Mardi Gras costume umbrellas. Many are simple, light parasols in traditional Mardi Gras colours, but you can buy applique designs to add. Because Mardi Gras is most famous for its masquerade festivals, these elaborate and elegant items of headwear are a good choice for a costume theme. Many designs incorporate the history and culture of New Orleans' second line dances, such as the jazz tradition.
Homemade Mardi Gras Umbrellas
Decorating your own Mardi Gras umbrella will make it unique and gives you the freedom to make it as outlandish and eye-catching as you dare. The umbrella traditionally accompanies an extremely bright costume. No rules apply to the costume's design, except that it should be bright and colourful.
Creating Your Own Mardi Gras Umbrella
To create a Mardi Gras umbrella, start with a basic umbrella in a traditional Mardi Gras colour or a simple sun parasol. Search for tassels, beads and sequins at fabric and craft stores. You can also sew or glue feathers or patterned ribbons to the top of the umbrella, hanging down. The second line dance can be energetic; attach hanging pieces carefully so the decorations won't come apart during the parade.