January 6th is the twelfth night after Christmas. Also called the Feast of the Epiphany or King's Day or simply Twelfth Night, January 6th is the official end of the Christmas season, In New Orleans January 6th Twelfth Night, is a significant day for another reason. It's the official start of the Carnival season, that leads up to the day before Ash Wednesday, or Mardi Gras.
Carnival is the Season, Mardi Gras is a Day
Many people use Mardi Gras and Carnival interchangeably, but they mean different things.
Carnival is a season that starts on January 6th or Twelfth Night. During Carnival, there are many balls, and parades and other celebrations. Every thing leads up to Mardi Gras, which means "Fat Tuesday" in French. Mardi Gras is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Midnight on Mardi Gras is the official end of Carnival. That's because Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent. One of the main reasons for Carnival and Mardi Gras is to eat, drink and be happy before observing the rigors of fasting and sacrifice during Lent.
Twelfth Night Celebrations
Twelfth Night is a cause for celebration in New Orleans because it officially begins our favorite time of year, Carnival. The Phunny Phorty Fellows is a band of Twelfth Night revelers who hold their annual ride every January 6th on the St. Charles Avenue Street Car, usually starting about 6 pm. Joan of Arc's birthday is celebrated in another Twelfth Night celebration with a parade in the French Quarter starting at the Bienville Statue on Decatur Street.
Historical characters in medieval dress will parade through the French Quarter. This parade usually starts about 7 pm. All over town, live music venues will have special guests performing in celebration of Twelfth Night. It's a fun time!