Now that all those little, winter holidays are over, it’s time to focus on the real party season: CARNIVAL!
Mardi Gras is just around the corner. That means reds and greens are coming down and purples, golds, and greens are going up. King cakes are baking and parades are stepping off. While the rest of the country is hunkering down for a long bleak winter, New Orleans (my soul’s city) is coming alive with the most decadent but uncomercialized celebrations in the world.
Christmas long ago succumbed to corporate exploitation but New Orleans’ Mardi Gras holds fast to it’s community roots and its true meaning.
“Party into Lent, dawlin’ and give yoursel’ somethin’ tuh ‘member in the time o ashes.”
That’s right, if the motto of Christmas is ho ho ho, then the Mardi Gras motto is YOLO.
Carnival is a time for the “everyman”. There is no corporate sponsorship of parades. Each of New Orleans’ civic and social organizations (called krews) select a theme and put on their own parade with their own personal flair. Many of them make signature gifts to distribute to parade goers. Krew of Muses decorates ladies shoes, Krew of Chewbaccus tosses out bandoliers, Krew of Nyx tosses embellished hand purses, and Zulu hands out painted coconuts.
On Mardi Gras day, the people mask. The tradition of wearing a mask for Mardi Gras originated as a way to let people from all walks of life party together without the baggage of race and class issues getting in the way. Princes can horse around with stevedores. Modest mothers can cut loose and dance with dandies with no one being the wiser.
When the party is over, confess into the ear of your priest, receive your ashes as a reminder of how short life is, and remember. For all it’s pain and disappointments, life is full of moments of pure joy and there is great value in abandoning yourself to it. Do whatcha wanna and… Laissez les bons temps rouler!