WASHINGTON, DC — Who needs New Orleans when Mardi Gras comes to you? Hundreds of people flocked to District Pier in southern Washington, D.C. Tuesday night to celebrate Mardi Gras. French for “Fat Tuesday,” Mardi Gras is a yearly celebration before Ash Wednesday — the commencement of the Lent, a Christian fasting period lasting 40 days.

During Mardi Gras, participants gorge themselves on rich and fatty foods before fasting. But one does not need to be religious to participate. Participants from all walks of life came out to the pier Tuesday, dressed in masks, bright clothes and beads or trinkets on necklaces. Traditionally, Mardi Gras beads are green, purple and gold — green to signify faith, gold to signify power and purple to signify justice — and are thrown from parade floats or passed out in crowds.

After floats from local shops and restaurants flowed down the wharf in a lively parade, music and dancing radiated through the pier. Children twirled and ran circles in front of Black Masala, a rock group from D.C., while their parents swayed in the crowd. Some audience members lined the rows of steps behind the band, moving together like a green, purple and gold snake behind the musicians. No one was without a smile as lights and music bounced off the river, reflecting the richness of the lives of the people above it.

Celia Raney is a photographer at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at photo@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @Celia_Raney.