If there’s a place that knows umbrellas, it’s New Orleans. This spectacular hub of Mardi Gras not only knows how to party, but also knows how to put on a good show of colour. When you think of those city streets, the image that comes to mind is fun masks, sparkling beads, and of course, umbrellas! So why are umbrellas so prevalent in this area? We thought we’d look into the history of colourful, beautiful umbrellas throughout New Orleans.
Some think it odd to celebrate death, but in New Orleans, that’s part of the magic of the area. When a person dies, they can choose a traditional jazz funeral that involves a musical procession to guide you to the afterlife. The first line of mourners is traditionally comprised of close family members who would follow the coffin through the streets. Following the first line is the second line, which moves through the procession swirling handkerchiefs, umbrellas and parasols while performing a traditional dance.
There are some questions around why umbrellas are involved in the process, but the main assumption is that New Orleans has a super hot climate, so parasols and umbrellas were used to protect from the sun during long processional walks. This type of dance is thought to have originated in Africa where children danced on the edge of adult dance circles, and unfortunately, when slaves were brought to the south of the US, these dances were incorporated with military brass bands.
But these days, there doesn’t have to be a funeral to make a parade. These dances are now part of Mardi Gras and New Orleans jazz culture, and umbrellas have become entrenched in that history. And Mardi Gras umbrellas have become louder and more fantastic than you ever could imagine! There are pom poms, wild colours, fluffy and feathered trims, and so much more. Options are endless, and while lots of shops sell wild umbrellas, you can also make your own! Check out Pinterest for tons of ideas for the perfect Mardi Gras umbrella, or for when you just feel like a little punch of style.