Generally speaking, Mardi Gras refers to the time period between Epiphany and the day before Ash Wednesday. Specifically, Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, the last day of this time period, and is the time to fill up on richer, fatty foods before the fast of Lent.
Different states, and different countries, celebrate anywhere from the single day of Fat Tuesday, to several months. In Rio De Janeiro it’s called Carnaval and lasts for nine days. In Alabama, events associated with Mardi Gras start in November and culminate on Fat Tuesday. But I don’t live in Rio, or in Alabama, so we’ll stick with Louisiana, which is associated with Mardi Gras all over the world.
Today, King Cakes are being cooked, or bought (King Cakes are baked with a very small naked baby doll inside and tradition says the person who gets the piece of cake with the baby in it will.. well…have a baby. It also comes with various privileges and obligations, including buying the cake for the next celebration).
Strings of beads are being loaded by the gross onto floats. Costumes are being cleaned, bought or made. Crawfish are being boiled. Some parades will start right after school lets out. Some will not start until sundown. Different Krewes will sponsor floats, balls, and other activities. One krewe in Shreveport has a dog parade. For us outsiders these people are like a clique of people who band together for partying purposes. They pay dues, and work on floats, and generally have a great time.
In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed a big portion of New Orleans, but Mardi Gras was celebrated with gusto the next Fat Tuesday, and The Big Easy is expecting the biggest crowd since 2005 to gather tonight for the city wide party.
So, there you have it. You know enough about Mardi Gras to have an intelligent conversation, which is totally unnecessary if you go to Mardi Gras, since most of the partiers just want to enjoy the party.
I really enjoyed using Louisiana as a setting for my Trey Fontaine Mystery Series, and hope to include Mardi Gras in one of the upcoming books.
For anyone who loves to party, Mardi Gras is the granddaddy of all parties. I wouldn’t recommend it for those who feel uncomfortable in crowds. Also, those with any sense of modesty might want to skip it. But for every one else, it’s party time! And uh, hide your wallet before you venture into the partiers…you know…just in case.