My favorite parade, the Joan of Arc Parade, will kick off the Carnival season on January 6, also known as Twelfth Night, by hosting its eighth annual walking parade at 7:00 PM in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Celebrating St. Joan of Arc’s birthday and Twelfth Night, this medieval-themed theatrical procession is inspired by Joan’s time in 1400’s France.
The parade, which got its start in 2008, features larger-than-life puppets and props of the French heroine’s “Voices” and battalions to represent the army she led, the gates of Orleans, France, medieval revelry and music, handmade throws, and a twelve-foot-tall bell tower that represents when Joan’s name was restored.
Joan of Arc liberated the citizens of Orleans, France, from a British siege in her first victory in 1429, which resulted in her moniker “The Maid of Orleans.” This parade honors our own unofficial patron saint, The Maid of New Orleans, the beloved golden French Quarter statue, a gift to the City of New Orleans from France in the 1950’s, and our French history and heritage. It’s a short, family-friendly parade that is quirky, whimsical, and spiritual.
You can follow over three hundred participants along through the French Quarter with one of Joan’s birthday candles, handed out to parade goers in honor of Joan’s 604th birthday. “We hand LED candles to folks along the parade route and ask them to fall in behind us. It’s our gentle bow to the local second-line tradition, and a magical way to see the French Quarter on foot,” said parade founder, Amy Kirk Duvoisin.
The parade typically makes three pauses for a bit of medieval pageantry. Toasts are made from the Historic New Orleans Collection and Grégor Trumel, Consul General of France in New Orleans, from the Williams Research Center balcony at 400 Chartres, followed by a sword blessing at Saint Louis Cathedral by The Very Reverend Father Philip Landry.
Then Joan of Arc’s maids, marching monks, bagpipers, and other characters will head toward the parade’s namesake’s statue at St. Philip and Decatur streets before ending at Washington Artillery Park for the grand finale. There the 2016 Maid of Honor, Margaux Schexnider, will crown this year’s king, Eric Belin, the President of the French American Chamber of Commerce, before cutting into King Cakes in honor of Joan of Arc. Royalty for the 2016 parade also includes Queen Yolande of Aragon, portrayed by Sandra Dartus.
Organizers suggest that parade-goers bring along a King Cake for their own enjoyment at the park, as Twelfth Night is the first night of Carnival and thus marks when the festive treat can be enjoyed. To that end, one of the signature throws for 2016 will be rings with a proclamation requiring the wearer to “engage in the eating of King Cake.” Another new throw to look for is a miniature sheep pillow carried by one of six wooden sheep, which will be pulled by shepherds.
It is certain to be fantastic fun for the entire family and a unique way to kick off the 2016 Mardi Gras season. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
SEE MORE JOAN OF ARC PARADE PHOTOS HERE