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Beads, booze and elaborate costumes. Yep, today is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, when two weeks of wild partying and parades culminate in New Orleans.

It may be cold and rainy, but that's not stopping 13 Mardi Gras parades planned throughout the city. The festivities started as early as 6 a.m., when the North Side Skull and Bones gang started waking people up in New Orleans' Treme neighborhood.

Monday night, Quentin Tarantino even joined the debauchery, riding in the Krewe of Orpheus parade. A little Mardi Gras lingo lesson: A krewe is a group that puts on a parade or ball during Carnival season. Krewes with names like Zulu, Rex, Argus, and Convington are throwing parades on Fat Tuesday, the day before the start of Lent.

And they're not an adult-only drunken affair. Former USA TODAY New Orleans correspondent Rick Jervis writes that the celebrations are often for the whole family. Kids dress up too and go to the parades with their parents. Often these parades take place several miles away from the infamous Bourbon Street.

Want to get in on the action? You can watch a live stream of the events at usatoday.com. And tell us how you're celebrating by using #usanow on Twitter.

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