The flambeau (“flahm-bo” meaning flame-torch) was originally a carrier that served as a beacon for New Orleans parade goers to better enjoy the spectacle of night festivities. The first flambeau carriers were slaves. Today, the flambeaux are a direct connection to the Orleans version Carnival and a valued creation. Many view the flambeaux as a kind of performance art, a valid assessment given the wild gyrations and flourishes common to experienced flambeau carriers.
Parades that commonly feature Mardi Gras flambeau carriers include Babylon, Chaos, d’Etat, Druids, Hermes, Muses, Orpheus, Proteus, Saturn, and Sparta. Many of the flambeau carriers today are descended from long lines of carriers, some going back to the days of slavery. Flambeaux are powered by naphtha, a highly flammable aromatic. It is tradition when the flambeau carriers pass to toss quarters to them in thanks for carrying the lights of Carnival though in these days handing dollar bills is also common.