Twelfth Night( January 6) is the traditional start of the Carnival season in New Orleans. Most people here celebrate it, but have no idea why, because the original religious reasons have been long since forgotten. 12th Night is the "Epiphany" (the night the three Wise Men visit the baby Jesus). This is why there is a "baby" in the "king" cake we eat only during carnival season. King Cakes are traditionally eaten only on Sundays between Jan 6 and the Tuesday before Lent (Mardi Gras Day). Whoever gets the baby in the Cake is the King or Queen for the day and is obligated to throw the next King Cake party the following Sunday. The term carnival means "removal of the flesh," the flesh in this case being the meat that is forsaken for Lent. The entire carnival season is the "feast before lent", and believe me, after you've celebrated Carnival, you are more than ready to give up a few excesses for 40 days!
Other than the traditional King Cakes, the traditional way to celebrate 12th night is to attend a masked ball. Everyone dresses in extremely formal (floor length dresses and tuxes) attire with elaborate Venetian style masks (see costume web links for ideas and where to buy/rent). Perhaps you have seen an old movie depicting a masked ball in which no one reveals their identity until they take off their masks at midnight? (like the ball scene from the Phantom of the Opera Musical). That is a 12th night ball....
There is one Parade on January 6th and it passes right in front of the Elms Mansion on St. Charles Avenue. This Carnival Krewe throws beads from street cars that they rent and decorate. It is the first Parade of the Carnival Season.
Want to learn more
about The Carnival Season
and Mardi Gras? Visit this site: