The New Orleans carnival, also known as Mardi Gras, has ancient origins. The festivity was imported to Louisiana by early French settlers in the seventeenth century.
The carnival season begins after the Epiphany and is characterized by dances, parades and receptions. The main festivities take place in the two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras.
The parades are organized by associations called Carnival krewes. Those who lead the parade throw small objects into the crowd, such as plastic beads, doubloons (aluminum or wooden dollar-sized coins stamped with a krewe logo), or small toys.
The colours typical of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold.
According to the traditional interpretation, these colors were chosen as they are used by the Catholic Church.
You can find some FAQs about the history and traditions related to the festival here.