Lundi Gras is a popular name for a series of Shrove Monday events taking place during the New Orleans Mardi Gras. It includes the tradition of Rex, King of Carnival, arriving by boat. This began in 1874, but the term Lundi Gras (French for “Fat Monday”) was not widely applied until 1987 when the arrival was brought back as part of a series of river-related events under the name of “Lundi Gras”. Lundi Gras was the creation of journalist Errol Laborde.
In 1874, 18 years after the beginning of modern Carnival celebrations in New Orleans, Rex chose to have a grand arrival in New Orleans from the Mississippi River. Once on land, Rex and his royal court were placed in carriages and driven through the streets to City Hall. The mayor and various city officials would present Rex with the keys to the city and proclaim Rex’s mystical and temporary rule over Carnival. Typically, the proclamation decreed the beginning of Mardi Gras and Rex’s reign at sunrise the following morning.
The Rex landing was a success, and quickly became a integral part of the Carnival celebrations which are unique to New Orleans; no other country or parishes observed the Monday before Shrovetide. The landing continued until World War I stopped Carnival in New Orleans. When the parades again returned to the streets some two years later, the landing had fallen by the wayside, a seeming casualty of ‘the war to end war.’
In 1971, the landing was recreated for one time only to celebrate Rex’s centennial. In 1987, Rex once again made a grand arrival on the Riverfront at the foot of Canal Street but now with the phrase Lundi Gras attached to the events which would include concerts and fireworks.
The King of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club also participates in the modern version of the event; the Mayor of New Orleans usually attends as well to salute the two Carnival monarchs and turn over symbolic control of the city for the following day.