A guide to Mardi Gras flags: Banners fly high during the Carnival season

Note: Mardi Gras is Feb. 13, 2018 (This article was posted in 2015.)

It's that time of year when homes, still a little drab from the winter, begin to take on a festive, more colorful look. While the Stars and Stripes always are on display, it's between Jan. 6, Kings' Day (or Twelfth Night), and Mardi Gras, when flags celebrating the season -- many in the official Carnival colors of purple, green and gold -- festoon the exteriors of homes and businesses.

New Orleans and flags have had a long-standing relationship. Nine official flags have flown over the city: Spanish flag of Castile and Leon; white flag of Bourbon France; Bourbon Spain; French Tricolor; U.S. flag beginning with the 15 stars and stripes of 1803; the flag of Independent Louisiana; the Stars and Bars of the Confederate States of America;  the state of Louisiana flag; and the City of New Orleans flag.

During this time of year, we can add another to this list -- the Mardi Gras flag. (A concept I first saw described in an article by Edward Branley on the GoNola site.) Who created the first official flag of the Carnival season? None other than Rex, which also originated the traditional Carnival colors of purple (justice), green (faith) and gold (power). According to a representative, "In Mardi Gras' earliest days, large banners were used to promote Mardi Gras every year. By the late 1870s, Rex had created its own flag." And so a new custom began.

Of this city's 10th flag, there are many incarnations, with many people flying ones they find in local stores or online. Many of the krewes have their own designs, with their own rules on when to fly them.

Amelia EarHawts: Founded in 2015, this marching group seeks to "create as much turbulence as possible with our signature dance moves and flight formations -- all without spilling one drop of your in-flight beverage." The flag, which made its debut during Carnival 2015, can be flown year-round. The group will be in a number of parades in 2016, including Cleopatra, King Arthur, Druids, Babylon and Okeanos.

Babylon: Both the queen and krewe members have flags. While the queen always receives a flag, the krewe had one designed for its members to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2014. "We wanted our own distinctive flag that symbolizes our longevity in Carnival," says a club representative. The members' flags can be flown year-round.

Bards of the Bilges: This pennant-shaped flag -- or burgee -- was designed in 2017. It is available to past queens and members of the court to fly at their homes. By tradition, the queen is selected from the court by chance at each year's ball.  The burgee is flown only during Carnival.

Caliphs of Cairo: Its current flag is its second design, in use since 1999. Only the kings and queens receive a flag, and it can be flown only by former monarchs between Kings' Day and Mardi Gras. The current year's king and queen cannot start flying their flags until the day after the ball.

Carrollton: This krewe doesn't have just one flag, it has three! Individual designs for the king, queen and krewe members can adorn homes. Founded in 1924, the first time a Carrollton flag flew is kind of murky, however some rules do apply: krewe flags can fly year-round, king and queen only during Carnival season. 

Chewbacchus: The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus is a science fiction- and fantasy-themed group which calls its members, "BacchanALIENs." Founded in 2010, parading first in 2011, it also has a number of subkrewes that can fly their own flags in the parade. The current krewe version is its second, and has flown for since 2013. "This flag originally reflected the honored role of the group's Red Shirt Parade escort team and the theme of the 2014 parade, 'The Wrath of Khan-ival,' when the group randomly selected our royalty using the ancient tradition of placing a 'bean' (actually a small Wookiee doll) in a king cake," says a Chewbacchus representative. "It also represents the fact that Chewbacchus is not merely 'about Star Wars' as many people mistakenly believe." Krewe members can fly the flag year-round.

Comus: For the oldest Carnival krewe (founded in 1856), a flag is given only to the queen. Past queens can fly it only from Kings' Day to Mardi Gras.

de Lune: Now in its eighth year, Krewe de Lune is a grassroots, space-themed Carnival organization with a membership of 120. KDL collaborates with other Carnival krewes during the season, including Pygmalion and Nyx; and gives back to the community by working with organizations, and facilitates community service events throughout the year. Krewe de Lune's sub-krewes are its dance team, The Star-Steppin' Cosmonaughties; and the Revelers, who create stunning visual and performance art pieces and puppetry that are showcased along the parade route. Krewe de Lune's biggest event during Carnival is its annual Space Ball. The flag, a silver moon on a blue, can be flown year-round by members. 

Divine Protectors of Endangered Pleasures: Also known as the DIVA'S, the group founded in 2002 parades through the French Quarter the Friday afternoon before Mardi Gras. Their beaded bustiers are this group's signature look. The flag was introduced in 2014, with extra funds from the purchase going to breast cancer research.

Elves of Oberon: This krewe has a flag for just the queen, with it personalized with the date of her reign. The flag has been around for about 10 years, and can only be flown during Carnival. 

Endymion: While Endymion has updated its flags throughout its existence, the krewe has settled on the present look for the past 10 years. Both membership and fans can fly the flags whenever they want, though the krewe encourages them to be flown just during the Carnival.

Femme Fatale: Founded in 2013, the Krewe of Femme Fatale is a women's parade. The flag is in the krewe's colors: candy red, black and white

Freret: This krewe's flag has the traditional Carnival colors of purple, green and gold, with the numbers representing the longitude and latitude of the beginning and end of Freret Street. The "X" across the logo reminds New Orleanians of the "X" on homes after Hurricane Katrina, proving "that not even Katrina could stop the merriment," states a krewe representative. It has been flying since 2011 when this krewe was founded (or to some, re-established.)

Full Grown Man Society: What started as an idea in 2005, became a reality in 2007, when this marching group formed. The society first paraded in 2008. As most of the founding members are of Sicilian descent, the flag's coat of arms is based on the Sicilian flag with the three legs of man. The symbols mean: guitar: rock-and-roll; fleur-de-lis: New Orleans; rooster: symbol of France and vitality; and woman in martini glass: festivities. The flag can be seen flying year-round at its den in the Lost Love Lounge. 

Goddesses: Established in 2011 and currently parading with Krewe of Delusion, the Krewe of Goddesses is a Social Aid & Pleasure Club that celebrates strong, creative women, as well as the men who love them.  

Harlequins: This traditional Carnival krewe is designing one for its queen. The flag would fly during the holidays and two weeks prior to Mardi Gras.

Hermes: Hermes offers a krewe flag and two specialty flags, which are slightly larger and presented to the king and queen. The king and queen's flags have been around since 1937; the krewe flag, since 2004. All members can fly the krewe flag; the king and queen, after their reign. The flags should be flown only during Carnival.

Iris: This women's Carnival krewe has a flag for the king and queen. The flag first appeared in the 1980s, and are on view from Kings' Day to Mardi Gras. The current flag was designed by Carol Pulitzer in 2011.

Jefferson City Buzzards: This Carnival walking club, founded December 17, 1890, has a flag for members and bar beer stops for their walk on Mardi Gras. The flag can be seen flying at the club's hall on Annunciation Street, as well as at Tchoup 45 and Ms. Mae's, The Club. The flag shown in the photo gallery can often be seen on a World War II era flagpole on the corner of Annunciation and Delachaise streets. 2018 marks the the group's 128th consecutive Mardi Gras. 

Krewe d'Etat: The Dictator, as to be expected, has his own flag with the year of his reign on it. This flag can be flown only at the home of former Dictators during Carnival season. General membership has a flag they can fly year-round. The flag has also gone overseas: A member who served in Afghanistan flew it beside the American flag on the military base during the Carnival season.

Laissez Boys of New Orleans: The Laissez Boys of New Orleans, founded in 2013, are the world's first Social Aid and Leisure Club, men of industry who practice and teach the art of earned relaxation, the majesty of intemperance and the value of charitable servitude.
Only members can fly the flag and we do so on the backs of our chairs during Mardi Gras every year. There is a new flag every year. 

Legion of Mars: A new krewe, founded in 2013 by current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, introduced its flag in 2015. All members are allowed to fly the flag during the Carnival. As a military-themed organization, its members are accustomed to participating in a mission under a flag, or "the colors." Each element in the flag represents an idea or principle: The color red is "blood red" symbolizing sacrifice, and the blood shed by the military; the image of Mars, the god of War, represents the use of military power to secure peace; the Roman numerals below represent the year the group was founded; and the words, "Victoria Aut Mors" (Latin for "Victory or Death"), was a phrase used by Gen. George Washington during the Battle of Trenton in 1776. ("Victory" was the password; "or Death" was the response.)

Lyons Carnival Club: Founded in 1946, proudly flies its flag at the homes of members and friends, as well as at affiliated bars such as Fat Harry's and Henry's throughout Carnival. The pennant features its original crest highlighting the City of New Orleans, Mardi Gras royalty, and of course, the mascot Lion -- all printed in purple, green and gold symbolizing faith, power and justice.

MAHAPTOS: The Metairie Ancient and Honorable Academy of Philosophy, Taxidermy and the Occult Sciences, is a state chartered social aid, benevolent and pleasure society. This secretive Krewe is said to promote harmony and tolerance in conjunction with pre-Lenten celebrations. According to its Articles of Incorporation (1987) "the object of this corporation shall be, generally, to foster and promote the society, benevolence and protection of its members and to ensure, through its members' indulgence in the Shrovian Rituals, that the return of Mardi Gras to the people shall endsure." The symbol of the krewe is the Ouroborus, an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. In 2005, the krewe was honored by the Orleans Parish Levee Board by the inclusion of the krewe's plaque at the Lakefront Mardi Gras Fountain.

Mithras: Since 2010, this carnival krewe has had a flag, but it is flown only at the organization's headquarters.

Momus: Founded in 1872, the Knights of Momus is the third oldest New Orleans Carnival krewe. The group has its annual ball the Thursday before Mardi Gras. 

Morpheus: Organized in 2000, this krewe first paraded in 2002. The krewe flag, available to members, can be flown year-round. Morpheus, the son of Sleep, is the god of dreams. "The flag has an image of Morpheus the God, who in his earthly form had wings as the primary feature with a large crescent moon in clouds and stars signifying nighttime and sleep," states an Morpheus official.

Muses: A flag that is almost as ubiquitous as the traditional purple, green and gold Carnival flag, it seems to take over a number of homes during the season. All Muses can fly the flag -- there is no official royalty in this group, as they say "we have 1,500 queens" already. When the all-women's group first petitioned the New Orleans City Council to have its parade (the group formed in 2000 and first rode in 2001), the original members wore ivy wreaths; now the ivy wreath surrounds the large "M" in the center of the flag. The flag was first flown in 2004.

NOMTOC: Starting in 2004, Krewe of NOMTOC members could fly these car flags during Carnival season, as well as for members' funerals and participation in other civic parades.

Nyx: Since 2012, this all-woman's organization's flag is flown during Carnival. "The flag is a special way for members to show their support for New Orleans and the krewe, wherever they are," states a krewe member.

Okeanos: This krewe has had two flags for two years: purple for members; white for the king and queen. They can be flown year-round. 

Organ Grinders: Founded in 2010, this group of "Sexah Monkeys" (as their founder and Chief Grinder calls them) will be showing their dance moves in a number of parades during Carnival, and at other events throughout the year. When not dancing, the Organ Grinders participate in quarterly local service projects. Members can fly their flags year-round. 

Oui Dats: More formally known as the Oui Dats de la Nouvelle-Orleans, this women's parading group is known for its signature "enormous white hair" a la Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette. It also has a philanthropic mission: to help raise money for local charities, with a focus on women's issues.  

Orpheus: Orpheus flags have been flying since 1994 on the homes of members. In the center of the flag is a lyre, which is the symbol of this superkrewe.

Persephone's Dragonflies: A social aid and pleasure organization founded in 2008 that celebrates the beauty, creativity, and unique bonds amongst women. Flyday, occurring annually on the Friday before Mardi Gras, is the culmination of the year's collaborative social events and design work. It is when the group parades through the French Quarter in gloriously beaded bustiers, handmade by each member.

Prophets of Persia: This Carnival organization first started producing a flag after Hurricane Katrina. Flown between Kings' Day and Mardi Gras, the flag is only for the queen: she receives it at the queen's supper, following the ball.

Proteus: Founded in 1882, this organization makes its red-and-white flag available only to the queen, sources say.

Pussyfooters: This all-women marching group's flag features the official Pussyfooters logo, which was designed the year it was founded, 2000. (The group first paraded in 2001.) The original logo was designed by Ramona Catalanello, and was updated years later by Gary Reggio. The first time the flag flew was in 2014, and only current and alumnae members of the Pussyfooters can fly it, year-round.

Rex: Created in the late 1870s, this flag is allowed to be flown only by former kings and queens, who are asked to fly it two to three weeks before Mardi Gras. The current monarchs receive their flags a few weeks before their reign, but don't fly them until their big day. The year of their reign appears in the banner's corner.

Rolling Elvi: This scootering, motorized parading krewe -- with its various incarnations of Elvis Presley -- have had their flag since 2009, says an Elvi official. It can fly year-round. 

610 Stompers: These "Ordinary Men. Extraordinary Moves" have been flying their flag since 2012 when a member suggested integrating the Carnival tradition. Both Stompers and Splits can fly the flags year-round.

St. John Fools of Misrule: The name is based on the oldest part of Covington, the St. John District, and the ancient celebrations of the Lord of Misrule. The group is a Twelfth Night Marching Club and announces the arrival of Carnival season on the Northshore. Because they are (self-admitted) Fools, they don't always march on the Twelfth Night but rather the Saturday after.

The group marches through the St. John District of Covington beginning at 6 p.m. following the Feast of Fools at the Columbia Street Tap Room and Seiler Bar. The first stop is the Trailhead where the Mayor makes a proclamation and the group picks the new Lord of Fools. Other stops include the Covington Brewhouse, the Southern Hotel, three bars on Boston Street and two on North Columbia Street ending up back at the Tap Room. On the steps of the Southern Hotel they toast the other Northshore krewes' Kings and Queens.

The banner depicts the St. John's Cross in the upper left quardrant, a jester in the upper right quadrant, a beer stein in the lower left and cowbells and a whip in the lower right.  The jester represents the Fool or Foolisness and the beer stein is pretty much self explanatory, as nearly all the stops on the march are taverns.  The whip and cowbells relates to Lord of Misrule celebrations of ancient times where pranksters filled the streets, often delivering spankings to bystanders and ringing bells or cracking whips to scare off evil spirits.

Selene: This women's Carnival krewe has a flag for the king and queen, and has the traditional Carnival colors of purple, green and gold. The first flag was given to Queen Selene I and King Selene I at the Coronation Ball in 1998. The tradition continues, as the newly crowned King and Queen receive their own flags each year. 

Sirens of New Orleans: Founded in 2010, the Sirens of New Orleans marching krewe members have flown its flag for three years. The flag depicts a Siren, the group's mascot, a famed beautiful temptress of the sea. 

Skeleton: A marching group founded in 1999. A diverse organization of artists, librarians, lawyers and just everything in between. Flags are owned and flown by krewe members, and can only be displayed from Twelfth Night until Ash Wednesday.

Watch the group leading Krewe d'Etat on the Friday before Mardi Gras and early Carnival morning, starting at a secret Uptown location and meandering its way through the Uptown route into the French Quarter, stopping for breakfast by the St. Louis Cathedral before disbanding somewhere near R Bar. 


Spank: 
A subkrewe in Krewe du Vieux, in 2016 the group rolled out its flag based on Shepard Fairey's "Obey" poster. The idea for the flag came courtesy of Wendy Chisholm, the krewe's creative guru, who was inspired by an old Zulu flag to design one for Spank.

Sparta: New in 2016 is this krewe flag, which was a result of Knights of Sparta members requesting one. The krewe's crest is in the center on a background of the krewe's colors of red, gold and green. This krewe personalizes its flags each year for their king and queen, however, the colors remain constant. The flags are flown only during the Carnival season.

The Merry Antoinettes: Is a Mardi Gras Krewe celebrating the glamour, revelry and cheekiness of Marie Antoinette and her court.

As a creative collaborative of scandalous party queens, the group embraces the extravagance of the French 18th century and bring it to life all year round, by participating in events throughout New Orleans, though Carnival is when you will primarily see them, but beware -- "We love to throw cake!" The Merry Antoinettes parade as a subkrewe of the Krewedelusion which follows Krewe du Vieux. 

Part of the krewe's mission is to be stewards of the New Orleans culinary and arts community. The group supports the Link/Stryjewski Foundation and have been invited to be volunteers for its fundraising efforts at the annual Bal Masque.

Thoth: A parade favorite, Thoth has had a flag for at least 20 years, a krewe representative says. Any member can fly it, year-round.

'tit Rex: Founded in 2008, this "micro-krewe" with "mini-floats" has an equally diminutive krewe flag. First flown in 2014, the flag can be flown year-round, but most members put it up during Carnival season. The flag measures 5" x 4", is made of felt and features a stencil of the krewe logo of a schwa with a crown above it. "We wanted to show our pride with a flag, just like all the other krewes," says a member.

Tucks: Any member can fly year-round the flag of this irreverent krewe. When asked how to describe it, a krewe representative said, "The flag says it all."

Twelfth Night Revelers: Twelfth Night Revelers presented its first parade and ball Jan. 6, 1870. (The krewe ceased parading in 1876.)

The Revelers introduced a flag in 2018 in anticipation of its 150th anniversary in 2019. The flag is flown by former queens, with her year identified in the lower right-hand corner, inside of the golden bean representing the one each received on the evening of their respective reigns.

While the queens are free to fly it whenever they wish, they have been encouraged to fly it only during the twelve days of Christmas, through Twelfth Night (Jan. 6) and for a week or so thereafter. 

Young Men Illinois Club: This flag made its debut in 2014, and all members of this group can fly the flag, but only during Carnival season.

Zulu: The Zulu flag came into being in 1975, when King Zulu Harold Doley designed a flag to put in front of his house. Now, there's an official "Flag Raising Party" at the king-elect's house a few days after Kings' Day. After he becomes the actual king at the club's Mardi Gras ball, the flag returns to Zulu headquarters, where it is displayed, along with previous kings' flags, which had been up since Twelfth Night. (They come down after Mardi Gras.)

Does your Carnival krewe have a flag? Please let me know!

Also, please add photos flags you see around town in the comments section! If you have a e-photo of your krewe's flag, send an email to Sstrachan@nola.com.

I will be updating this article as I receive more information. 

Additions/corrections 1.13.2016: Krewe of Goddesses, Krewe of Selene and Krewe of NOMTOC added. New Knights of Sparta information and flag.

1.14.2016: Krewe de Lune added.

1.18.2016: Knights of Momus added.

1.19.2016: Amelia EarHawts added.

12.27.2016: Persephone and Skeleton added.

12.28.2016: St. John Fools of Misrule added.

1.9.2017: MAHAPTOS added.

1.12.2017: Femme Fatale added.

1.15.2017: The Merry Antoinettes added.

1.12.2018: Twelfth Night Revelers added

1.13.2018: Lyons Carnival Club and Laizzez Boys added.

2.2.2018: Barge of the Bilges added