March 19, 2017
Everywhere else in the U.S., “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 Sunday, March 19, 2017– St. Joseph’s Day. 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 tribes, led by their Big Chiefs, often collaborate with each other to perform colorful dances, chants and other rituals.
The most popular Super Sunday event is led by Mardi Gras Indian Council. A procession begins at A.L. Davis Park and parades through the Central City neighborhood. In full feathers and embellishment, the Mardi Gras Indians hit the streets to celebrate with other “gangs” in true New Orleans style. Festivities begin at noon and are free and open to the public.
Other various festivities take place throughout the city, such as the annual Super Sunday parade and Bayou St. John and Orleans Avenue and a celebration at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the famous Treme neighborhood.
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.
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 for the most part 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.
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.