By David Stewart White
The words "Mardi Gras" and "New Orleans" are inextricably bound together. Since the North American city's traditions originated with French settlers, it's logical to think that the holiday would be a huge event in modern-day Paris.
But Mardi Gras — known as Carnaval — is hardly a showstopper in the French capital. This year's Carnaval de Paris celebration is a largely volunteer-organized parade that attracts a moderate, but enthusiastic crowd of costumed celebrants and spectators.
Then there's the cow. Traditionally, a fat ox was paraded through the city streets before Lent—a reminder to the pious to abstain from meat during the holy period. La Promenade du Boeuf Gras (parade of the fat beef) is still practiced in Paris. The Carnaval de Paris website gives a shout out to "the cow Burnet...mascot and feature [of] the Carnival."
Paris' Mardi Gras tends to be a family-friendly event—at least in comparison to the New Orleans version. This year's Carnaval de Paris theme is "the world of games." Children are invited to download and color posters to get in the spirit of the event.
The 2013 version of Carnaval de Paris kicks off at 3:00 pm on February 10 at the Place Gambetta in Paris' 20th arrondissement, just east of Père Lachaise cemetery.