Carnival season culminated Tuesday with Mardi Gras parades, street parties and what amounted to a massive outdoor costume festival around the bars and restaurants of New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Revelers in capes, wigs, spandex and feathers danced in front of St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square while Latin music blared.

Outside the narrow streets of the quarter, two tradition-rich parades rolled on a route that took them through the city’s Uptown neighborhood and onto Canal Street in the business district. First came the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, with marchers and riders in African-inspired garb handing out the century-old club’s signature gift — hand-decorated coconuts.

Later, Rex, King of Carnival, rolled down St. Charles, stopping for a ceremonial toast at a historic downtown building with Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras — or Fat Tuesday — is a secular holiday, but it’s tied to Christian and Roman Catholic traditions. It always falls the day before Ash Wednesday and is seen as a final day of feasting and revelry before the solemnity of Lent.

“I was raised Catholic, so tomorrow’s for repenting but today is for partying,” Bethany Kraft, a regular visitor from Mobile, Alabama, said as she waited for parades with her husband Alex.

New Orleans has the nation’s largest and best known Carnival celebration, replete with traditions beloved by locals. It’s also a vital boost to the city’s tourist-driven economy — always evident in the French Quarter.

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