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Has Mardi Gras ever been canceled?

Due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, New Orleans has announced that the traditional Mardi Gras parades will not go ahead in 2021.

Has Mardi Gras ever been cancelled?

With the havoc coronavirus has wreaked on public holiday celebrations, parades and sporting events over the passed few months, news about the cancelation of Mardi Gras 2021 parades may not come as a surprise to many, but will still be a huge disappointment for New Orleans residents, parade krewes and the thousands of visitors who normally descend on the city to enjoy the music and color-filled festivities.

But while the parades, the traditional showpiece of Madrid Gras celebrations, will not go ahead, New Orleans city officials have said the holiday itself has not been canceled.

"I want to be very clear. Mardi Gras 2021 is not canceled. It is going to look different. The mayor has been very consistent about saying that at every stage," said Beau Tidwell, communications director for Mayor LaToya Cantrell, at a press conference on Tuesday (via CNN).

With the huge potential for parades to act as super-spreader events, Tidwell added that “There's no way that [going ahead with parades] is responsible given what we know about the pandemic right now.”

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"So while we certainly want to move forward and find ways that we can celebrate, and we can mark this occasion, we have to do it safely,” he added.

Has Mardi Gras ever been canceled?

Not even Hurricane Katrina could kill the city’s resolve to host the parade 15 years ago. While Katrina had initially threatened the cancelation of Carnival in 2006, krewes decided to go ahead with parades in order to lift the city’s spirits amid the aftermath of that terrible disaster.

But this will not be the first time that a public health scare has prompted the cancelation of Mardi Gras. In fact, since 1857, it has been canceled on 13 occasions for various reasons, mainly because of war, but also due to a plague and a Police Union strike.

From 1862 to 1865, the Civil War prompted cancelation of the parade, while political upheaval during the subsequent reconstruction period also led to the cancelation of festivities in 1875. Much like in 2021, a public health emergency caused Carnival to be called off in 1879 amid the yellow fever outbreak.

While there were also no parades during the Spanish Flu Pandemic from 1918 to 1919, the real cause of the cancelation in those years was World War I, with World War II the reason activities ceased more than two decades later between 1942 and 1945. War again stopped Mardi Gras in 1951, months after the Korean War had gotten underway.

In the proceeding 60 years, Mardi Gras has only been canceled once – in 1979, when a Police Union Strike prompted cancelation of the parade.

The sad announcement made this week will mean that 2021 will mark the first time Mardi Gras has been canceled in 32 years. But with expectations that mass deployment of a coronavirus vaccine is not far off, New Orleans can look forward to Mardi Gras rolling on again in 2022.