March 15, 2015
Everywhere else in the U.S. (including New Orleans), “Super Sunday” refers to the day the NFL’s Super Bowl is played. However, in New Orleans, we also have our own “Super Sunday” and it has nothing to do with football.
Super Sunday New Orleans-style is the Sunday closest to St. Joseph’s Day (March 19) when various tribes of Mardi Gras Indians put on their colorful, elaborate costumes and march through the streets of several New Orleans neighborhoods. During their processions, the participating Mardi Gras Indian tribes, led by their Big Chiefs, often meet other tribes (or" gangs") and their Big Chiefs, performing colorful dances, chants and other rituals.
The largest and most popular of the Super Sunday festivities is the procession staged by the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council in the Central City neighborhood, originating at A.L. Davis Park (Washington and LaSalle streets). The 2015 Indian Council gathering and procession takes place on Sunday, March 15 at noon. The route is as follows:
- Begins at noon in A.L. Davis Park, Washington Avenue and LaSalle Street
- Starts on LaSalle
- Left at Martin Luther King Blvd.
- Left at South Claiborne Avenue
- Left at Washington Avenue
- Ends back at A.L. Davis Park
Also on that day, the Tambourine and Fan organization will be staging their traditional annual Super Sunday parade at Bayou St. John and Orleans Avenue in the city’s Mid-City neighborhood.
In recent years there has been yet a third Super Sunday event called “Big Sunday,” which falls in April during the open weekend between French Quarter Festival and JazzFest. In 2015 it will be Sunday, April 19.
Various other smaller gatherings and processions may be staged on Super Sunday around the city, and there may be some related festivities at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the city’s now-famous Treme neighborhood. Check local listings or the Mardi Gras Indian website.
All Super Sunday Mardi Gras Indian outdoor gatherings and processions are free and open to the public. Since 1970 they have taken place during daylight hours, which allows spectators to admire the beauty of the Big Chief’s and tribe members’ suits and the craftsmanship that went into their construction.
Mardi Gras Indian Suits
The suits worn by the Big Chiefs are entirely hand-sewn, incorporating brightly colored feathers, beads, rhinestones and glittering sequins into a dazzling panoply of folk art. The beads are sewn together in a pattern on the front of the Big Chief’s suit and apron to depict an illustrated theme, most often dealing with a historic event or folkloric tale.
The Big Chiefs’ suits, which are only worn twice a year – during Mardi Gras and Super Sunday (plus special events like JazzFest, conventions and private parties) – can weigh up to 150 pounds. The Big Chief’s headdress alone may weigh 50-75 pounds. Each year a new suit must be constructed, again entirely by hand, while the previous suit is dismantled. No sewing machines or other mechanical devices are used, and the drawings are done freehand - not by computer.
About the Tribes
The Mardi Gras Indian tribes, numbering about 50, have many colorful names, originating in Native American tradition, and their chants and songs are rooted in tradition as well.