It’s time for Mardi Gras. For many of you (and me, until a few years ago), Mardi Gras holds little meaning. When I moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, not only was I thrust into the warmest, most absorbing lifestyle, I was also thrust into Mardi Gras. Folks on the Coast take Mardi Gras very seriously. So, I thought I would tell you a little about it and share some of the fun!
Mardi Gras begins on January 6th and runs until Ash Wednesday. I mean ~ it ends at midnight on Ash Wednesday. The day before is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday—the literal translation. And, let me tell you the season is something to behold. It is parties, parades, and every kind of festivity until midnight—when the streets are deserted and swept clean and there is no evidence of it—until the next year. This year Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is February 9th, putting Valentine’s Day in the full swing of things. Trust me, celebrating has been in full swing since January 6th.
I thought you might enjoy having me share some fun facts about Mardi Gras:
PARADES: Contrary to popular belief, the first Mardi Gras parade did not take place in New Orleans. It occurred in Mobile, Alabama in the 1700’s. And it still goes on today all along the Gulf Coast. The traditional colors for Mardi Gras are: Purple for justice, Green for faith, and Gold for power. Cities, homes, shops, and people drip with color. You will find every sort of Mardi Gras adornment available everywhere. And if you can’t, you can go to one of the many warehouse size stores that specialize totally in Mardi Gras goodies. The most famous—or infamous—parades are in New Orleans. But the parades, in many ways are just the culmination of all the fun that takes place getting ready them. Krewes, or parade organizations, will host Balls as well as create fabulous floats. From atop these incredible floats, beads and other goodies are thrown into the crowds. You’ll hear shouts, “Throw something at me, mister!” (which generally is not accompanied by exposing one’s chest—but you never know) from hordes of people lining the parade route to get the attention of the passing floats. People become weighed down with beads and doubloons, colored coins, and keep these mementos in their homes for years for good luck, displaying more and more each year.
BALLS: The Kings and Queens preside over the Balls, where food, fun, drink, beads and trinkets abound. Each Ball will have its own theme and its own King and Queen. Themes can run from the sublime to the ridiculous and anywhere in between. Everyone brings food and King Cakes adorn the tables.
Most costumes are usually designed to reflect the theme of the ball, be it an 80’s theme, a Redneck Ball, or one dedicated to the Roaring Twenties. Don’t worry, you are welcome at the ball, no matter what you wear. It’s the fun, food, and friendship that counts.
KING CAKES: These are traditional fare of Mardi Gras and are generally shaped in an oval with the traditional colors of purple, green, and gold stripping it. Inside is a little plastic baby and whoever finds the baby is anointed King or Queen of the party (not so for the bigger balls, where much tradition goes into choosing the presiding King and Queen each year). But, the lucky person finding the baby is responsible for providing the King Cake the next year.
New Orleans has become famous for its Mardi Gras parades and celebrations. Don’t be fooled—there’s one everywhere you turn along the Gulf Coast. Even Hurricane Katrina couldn’t stop the festivities. So, if you can’t make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, just stop along the way and as they say—let the good times roll!