Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mardi Gras!

 (Purple: justice; Green: faith; Gold: power) 
The celebration of Mardi Gras starts two weeks before the actual date, and the date is decided by when Easter is.  Mardi Gras is always on Fat Tuesday, and that day is called Fate Tuesday because it’s the day that many indulge in fatty foods because it is the day before Ash Wednesday which is the first day of lent, and if you don’t know what lent is, lent is the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  Many fast and/or give up luxuries. 
The first time Mardi Gras was celebrated in America was 1703 in a small settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile (which is current day Mobile.) In 1710 the “Boeuf Gras Society” was formed and from 1711 to 1861 there was a parade held with an enormous bull head that was pushed on wheels by 16 men, later on there was a live bull, draped in white to signal the coming of lent.  This occurred on Fat Tuesday. In 1718 New Orleans was born and by the 1730s Mardi Gras was celebrated annually, but not with the parades that go on today, but with elegant balls. 
The parades that we know today didn’t start until the late 1830s, and a few years after that in 1856 an anonymous group formed calling themselves the Mistick Krewe of Comus, and they are still around to this day.  Their activities, except for their parade, are so selective that people have been known to beg, buy, and steal invitations to the ball, but their tactics never worked.  This group is so secretive, that in 1991, they were asked to publicly verify that their group does not discriminate, and after they did that, they were asked to provide a whole list of who was involved with the organization.  It was then that they stopped participating in the parades.   Later on the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to make this group reveal itself, but they still decided not to be involved with the parade part of Mardi Gras.  
 In 1870 another Mardi Gras Krewe was formed and they called themselves the Twelfth Night Revelers.  This krewe introduced women into the mix.  Before it had just been men who organized all of the events, and just a king called Rex, but this year a woman would be crowned queen. This is also where the traditional King Cake came from.  They made the cake, put a gold bean in a slice, and handed them out.  Unfortunately, the jesters got too drunk and things didn't go as planned.  The pieces of cake were spilled into the women’s laps, and some even threw cake at the women.  This did not go over well with them, and the woman who found the bean decided to swallow it.  A year later, things went better, and a queen was crowned.  The first queen was Emma Butler.  In modern day, the cake is now a box with a bunch of drawers.  One contains the gold bean, and the rest contain silver. 
In 1875, Louisiana declared Mardi Gras a legal state holiday, and ever since, besides for a few cancellations because of war, weather, or political problems, the city has always celebrated.  In 1972, the city decided that parades would be prohibited through the Quarter for fire safety reasons.  In 1979 the police department went on strike resulting in the celebration being moved to neighboring communities.
Modern day krewes work like a business, and if you pay your dues, then you are allowed into the group, and any member is allowed on the float during the parade.  After Hurricane Katrina, which left the city bankrupt, many didn't believe that the usual Mardi Gras celebration could recover, but eventually in 2009, everything was back on track and the parades were back on their original streets. 

Mardi Gras is a fun celebration, that is noticed everywhere, but many travel down to New Orleans to celebrate.  Celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans is definitely on my bucket list, just to have the experience.  

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