Forget Super Tuesday. In New Orleans, it's Fat Tuesday - Mardi Gras.
The holiday falls early this year due to the religious calendar; in fact, it's the earliest it's been since 1913. With such an early date, it seems to have taken a little time for the revelry to ramp up. But now, things are definitely in full swing.
There's a certain point in each Carnival season when you can feel a vibe, an electric pulse throughout the city. This year, it seemed to take hold last Friday with the start of the weekend. There seems to have been a noticeable feeling of joy in the air since then. It all culminates today as hundreds of thousands of people take to the street across the area.
Despite the overplayed images of debauchery and bawdiness, Mardi Gras really is above all else a family affair. That often shocks people who think of the celebration as an adult's only party.
The rowdiness of Bourbon Street is just one aspect of the day, and it is one place you won't normally find a lot of locals. They leave that to the tourists.
A day to enjoy
The average New Orleanian celebrates with family and friends. Early this morning, crowds of friendly people lined the parade route along historic St. Charles Avenue. Barbecue grills and gumbo pots were going full force. In suburban Metairie the crowds were huge. Kids played ball as they awaited the arrival of the Krewe of Argus parade.
NBC's own Hoda Kotb and Al Roker are Grand Marshalls in the parade this year and have been feeling the love from the crowd. Kotb, who once worked at one of the local stations here in New Orleans, can't move a few feet without people wishing her well or taking a photo with her.
Today is a day to put aside the mundane and the ordinary. Businesses and schools are closed. All thoughts of worries and strife are forgotten. That is the real beauty of Mardi Gras. It's one day to step back from reality and enjoy life. At midnight, the street sweepers will come through, putting an end to the celebrations, and tomorrow things return to normal.