Happy Fat Tuesday: Celebrate & Learn About the Cultural Roots of Mardi Gras

Happy Fat Tuesday!

It may be business as usual here in New England, but way down south in New Orleans they are having a huge party! Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) has arrived, and the whole city is celebrating! The traditions of Mardi Gras take all forms, and encompass everything from cake to sequins in an all-out celebration of local culture.

Mardi Gras’ roots lie in Catholicism, as the day after Mardi Gras- Ash Wednesday – begins the season of Lent, wherein members of the church give up certain indulgences until Easter Sunday. In order to prepare for Lent, New Orleanians celebrate like mad and spend a day truly enjoying all of the good things in life. Mardi Gras is perhaps best known for its parades filled with outrageous floats, unbelievable costumes, and lavish decorations and embellishments. In addition to these events, Mardi Gras brings together beignets and King Cake, Cajun and Zydeco music, Native American traditions, and thousands of strings of beads to create one of the most fascinating celebrations in America. Click here for online resources…

A Day in the Life of Mardi Gras: Tucks on Napoleon Avenue

Fat Tuesday!

So, when you think, “Nan is down in New Orleans for Mardi Gras!” you are probably not thinking, “Babysitting!” But I am today! Nina and Lola and their friend Lily are all under my care today while their parents are down selling their leather Mardi Gras masks in the French Market. I had things to do today—finish sewing my costume in time for tonight’s Bal Masque, for example, so I volunteered to stay home and watch the little children.

Before the parents left I asked them for all the things the girls had to do. Here are the things they have to do:

  1. Eat
  2. Stay out of the street.

That seems to be it. That leaves a whole world of other things to do:

  1. Take the streetcar down to Napoleon Avenue
  2. Go to a Mardi Gras Parade, as long as (refer to 2 above) they stay out of the street!

So here were my little charges:

Lola, Lily and Nina, happily minding their own business, reading books like the respectable citizens they are.

Realizing that Tucks, the Mardi Gras parade Krewe that was originally organized by college boys was about to roll, we grabbed our shoes and tore off to catch the streetcar and head down to Napoleon Avenue. (But we stayed out of the street.)

Lesson learned: If you take a four-year-old out without a Kleenex in your pocket, you will end up with snot on your jeans.

We got on the streetcar and rode to Napoleon Avenue without incident (save for the runny nose incident.)

When we got there Tucks was on parade and beads were flying:

Then the last float of Tucks passed and it began to rain. We ran across Napoleon to the church where they just happened to be painting faces and selling candy! (Refer to Mandate 1 above—they must eat.)

The girls got painted up (note spoils of the parade around their necks, along with the bag-full of more stuff they caught.) and, with the rain increasing to drowning levels, we raced back to the streetcar, (out of the street) and waited in the pouring rain until the next streetcar came. Then the rain got really heavy so that we could barely see out the streetcar windows. The little girls struck up a conversation with a Tulane University girl, that ended with them all singing rousing songs in French. We reached our stop (I was the lookout) and, when the little girls got up to get off the streetcar, everyone burst into cheers for them and their French songs. We jumped off the street car into the mud (but not into the street) and raced into the Rite Aid store, to get out of the rain and into the freezing cold air conditioning.

Then the rain turned to flooding and, answering a phone call from the parents who said they had to come home due to torrential rain, flooding and the threat of tornadoes, we gave our position and they agreed to come and pick us up.

And then we came home and got to eat dinner.

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras, the day itself and I am ready! And will thus be going to bed very soon in order to get up early enough to do the whole day properly.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nan Parati - Elmer's StoreNan Parati

Nan is the proprietor of Elmer’s Store in Ashfield, MA. A New England transplant from the Deep South, Nan shares her southern wit, wisdom and charm in her column, “Notes from Nan.”  nanparati@aol.com

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