The beginning of Carnival season has its own milestones within every household. The first King Cake bought for the season. The change of decorations. For the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc, however, their parade on the first day of Carnival marks another important milestone that they will celebrate this year: Jeanne d’Arc’s 100th anniversary of sainthood.
Founded in 2008, the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc honors the “Maid of Orléans” on her purported birthday and reminds the city of its French heritage. The event is one of the most family-friendly of those that pass in the French Quarter, and spectators will find a large number of children among the krewe members.
The krewe’s primary goal is to honor the life and sacrifice of the young woman who led France during the 100 Years War and was later burned at the stake at 19 years old. Her belief that God had chosen her to lead France to victory against the British made her an enduring figure in history. By the time she was canonized in 1920, the Maid of Orléans was considered one of the most important figures in French national history, and an obvious connection to our own city inspired the creation of the krewe.
Instead of traditional floats, the parade honors Jeanne’s life through sub-krewes that march in the parade, and children interested in medieval lore with knights and queens will no doubt be delighted as they see a swarth of young “foot soldiers” (the parade’s volunteers) as well as krewe members brandishing swords to represent the young maid’s time as a French warrior. Later, a krewe of passersby engulfed in LED-lighted flames symbolize her burning at the stake only to be followed by a group of angels. The parade follows a short route through the French Quarter, stopping at St. Louis Cathedral for a blessing of the sword and, of course, a visit to the golden statue of Saint Jeanne in the 900-block of Decatur Street to sing “Happy Birthday.” Spectators are encouraged to bring their favorite first-of-the-season King Cake or, if feeling particularly in-theme, a galette du rois, the traditional French cake served on Twelfth Night.
What the parade is probably best-known for, however, are their unique throws. While one member makes wooden swords to give to kids (which he prefers to surprise children with instead of being asked for), there are prayer cards, parchment scrolls wrapped with metal crowns and necklaces with angel wings, to name a few. Paper throws range from having historical information about the saint to simply wishing her a happy birthday. The younger krewe members often pass out handmade butterflies – meant to represent the clouds of butterflies that supposedly followed the young Jeanne into battle.
In celebrating the 100 years since Jeanne’s canonization, the krewe this year is welcoming 100 16 to 19-year-olds – the age Jeanne was when she was a leader – to be either acolytes or angels. There will be both a new Jeanne d’Arc statue in the procession as well as commemorative doubloons. The Krewe is also pioneering a #St.Joan100 taskforce to plan events during this year to commemorate the anniversary of her canonization.
While the Krewe of Jeanne d’Arc has grown a great deal since the 50 marchers that first paraded, honoring New Orleans’s unofficial patron saint has been a mainstay in the parade’s history. This year’s anniversary celebration offers families a unique chance to go downtown and open carnival season by learning about the Maid of Orléans and her connection to our own Nouvelle Orléans.
Just the Facts…
What: The Krewe of Jeanne d’Arc Parade
When: Monday, January 26 at 7 p.m. At 6:45 there will be a City Proclamation the corner of Bienville and N. Front Street by Council Member Kristin Gisleson Palmer.
Tips: Parking is available in the Premium Lot on Decatur Street, or you can find street parking in the CBD. Bathrooms are available at Jax Brewery and Canal Place.
More Information: JoanOfArcParade.org