Mardi Gras is relatively early this year, but the celebration always comes 47 days before Easter Sunday.
Mardi Gras came to New Orleans through its French heritage in 1699.
The celebration is rather tame today, but has a rich and often raucous history.
Early explorers celebrated the French Holiday on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Over the years "Carnival," as it's known, has become an exciting holiday for both children and adults.
In the early 19th Century Mardi Gras gained a reputation for violence.
Tulane University history professor Terrence Fitzmorris says in the 1840s, Mardi Gras had become so "dangerous to life and limb" that the newspapers and city leaders pushed to have it abolished.
An organization called Comus came along and added beauty to Mardi Gras and demonstrated that it could be a safe and festive event.
Today, Mardi Gras is a varied celebration that includes everything from the city's "self-annointed" royalty to local families going to see the parades.
Mardi Gras is inextricably tied to Lent and from the Christian perspective is all about a period of changing one's life in preparation for Easter.
Undeniably there will be much food consumed and alcohol will flow freely in many quarters today.
But Fitzmorris says while the partying will be hard and heavy today, participants will be mindful that Lent is about to begin.
There is, Fitzmorris says, an irony to Mardi Gras.
From a religious viewpoint, "Fat Tuesday is about sin and the next day is Ash Wednesday which is about repentance."