Australia: A new kind of Mardi Gras

Just like any American college student, I have always been one to celebrate the fun-filled holiday: Mardi Gras. Usually, this day long celebration of the day before lent begins consists of a party with family and friends complete with King Cake, beads, and decorations in the vibrant colors of purple, gold, and green. Last year was my first chance to experience Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street in New Oreans, and lets just say I’ll have to think twice about ever going back. Of course there is a ceremonial religious aspect to the holiday, but you won’t find much of that religious zeal on Bourbon street. The chaos alone is overwhelming, but the drunken vulgarity mixed with the stench of booze tops off a not so ideal weekend.

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Down Under, and especially in Sydney, Mardi Gras is celebrated as a LGBT festival with a fabulous parade of epic proportions. The costumes and decorations are just as eccentric as in the states, but with less masks and more colorful flare. The whole day revolves around love and acceptance of ones personal sexuality, so my friends and I made sure to see what all the hype was about for ourselves. Even though none of us are homosexual, we were all still eager to dress up, paint our faces, and embrace the celebration. The parade took place on Oxford street, which is notorious for its gay bars and rainbow flags posted on every corner. The street was full of people of all ages, genders, and sexualities, and I was even a bit surprised by the number of straight couples and families that attended. The most obvious difference from New Orleans Mardi Gras I noticed was how much friendlier everyone was compared to Bourbon street, followed by how much cleaner the streets were. The parade went on for over 5 hours, and it was filled with flamboyant floats, dancing, and singing. As the sun began to disappear, the party really kicked off. A few places we went into were pretty packed, but Australians have a high respect for personal space, so I never felt overwhelmed. All of the homosexual people I met were absolutely fabulous, and I really enjoyed meeting their partners and chatting with them. Their warm, welcoming personalities made them so easy to talk, and I loved how genuine they all seemed. Overall, I found the Mardi Gras celebration in Sydney to be much more fun and far more enjoyable than my experience in New Orleans.

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