30 January 2021
Each year, the city of New Orleans in the State of Louisiana holds a celebration known as Mardi Gras. This year, traditional activities have been canceled because of the coronavirus health crisis. But, many houses around the city are now preparing for the special week.
The Mardi Gras celebration often involves a parade with people dressing in colorful clothes and special vehicles covered in decorations called floats. What is known as Carnival season begins in early January and ends in February.
Mardi Gras is one of several Carnival celebrations in traditionally Roman Catholic parts of the world. The celebrations are held the day before Catholics begin the religious observance of Lent.
The house float movement
Even before the city announced its plans, some groups decided they would not be parading for the 2021 Mardi Gras. Safer choices include handing out gifts from a streetcar and organizing outdoor art and virtual parades.
The "house float" movement started in November after a government official said the parade would be canceled. The term "house float" describes homes decorated as if they were Mardi Gras floats.
Megan Joy Boudreaux lives in New Orleans. She started the Krewe of House Floats group. She wrote on Twitter: "We're doing this. Turn your house into a float and throw all the beads from your attic at your neighbors walking by."
Her Tweet was meant as a joke. But, the more she thought about it, the more she realized she liked the idea. When she created the Krewe of House Floats, she thought only a few friends and family would join. But there are now 39 smaller groups to help plan for different areas in the city.
"I didn't think I was starting a Mardi Gras krewe. Here I am," Boudreaux said. "I've got myself a second full-time job."
January 6 was the official first day of Carnival season and the group already has more than 9,000 members. Three thousand of the members are from other states or countries. There is even an online map of people who are decorating their houses. Charlotte "Charlie" Jallans-Daly is one of two mapmakers for the project. She said people as far away as England and Australia are showing their houses online.
This year, the Mardi Gras celebration will be on February 16. Houses are to be decorated at least two weeks before. The hope is that people will spread out widely and see the homes during different times.
The Facebook group includes people teaching each other skills and discussions about advertisements and neighborhood themes. Artists are also giving lessons over the internet.
Some neighborhoods want to show an idea behind their decorations. Katie Bankens wanted the theme for her neighborhood to be based on Shark Week, a week of television programs about sharks.
Artists decorate homes and businesses
Boudreaux, of the Krewe of House Floats, suggested people help employ and buy from out-of-work Carnival artists and suppliers. They were affected by the parade cancellation. Many more artists have gotten involved.
Dominic "Dom" Graves is an artist who has organized more than 20 five-person classes in professional paper-mache methods. Each person pays $100 to learn how to create art for the celebration out of paper, water and flour.
Devin DeWulf is an artist from New Orleans. He started two aid groups to help the community during the health crisis. He runs another social group: the Krewe of Red Beans.
Caroline Thomas is an expert float designer and is working with DeWulf. They created the "Hire a Mardi Gras Artist" program. They are collecting money for groups of artists to help decorate 11 houses and seven businesses.
One of the houses to be decorated is rented by Sisters Mary Ann Specha and Julie Walsh. They are Catholic religious workers who operate a shelter for homeless women with children. They received permission for the project from their organization in Dubuque, Iowa.
DeWulf said decorations made by the artists could be sold to raise more money.
"We've put about 40 people to work, which is nice," DeWulf said.
I'm Armen Kassabian.
Janet McConnaughey from The Associated Press reported this story. Armen Kassabian adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
decorations –n. (pl.) artwork added to something to make it more interesting or attractive
beads –n. (pl.) small completely round pieces of glass, metal or other material that are often strung together and worn or used to decorate objects
app – n. a computer program that performs a special function
attic – n. a room or space that is just below the roof of a building and that is often used to store things
themes – n. the main subject that is being discussed or described
rent –v. to pay the owner of a property for its use
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