Levees Not War
Rebuilding New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast.

Posts Tagged ‘mardi gras’

Happy Mardi Gras, Y’all

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Riders by Bart Everson, 2011

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We wish everyone, wherever you be, a happy Mardi Gras. Where we are this morning—not at the Zulu or Rex parades, sorry to say, but in New York where it’s 17 degrees—it’s too cold to quite grasp that today is Mardi Gras, but this is indeed the day. The cold rain in New Orleans doesn’t feel convincingly festive for the people there, either.) A friend visiting from Baton Rouge brings warmth of spirit (including that of the Spanish Town Parade) and beads of purple, green, and gold. Where we wish we were right now is on St. Charles Avenue, on lower Royal Street in Bywater with the Society of St. Anne’s parade into the Quarter, and on Canal Street and the Quarter. For us, this year, a Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner this evening at Calvary/St. George’s Church in New York City will be our place of celebration.

Click here and crank it up: The NOLA Defender posts a YouTube video playlist of Classic Mardi Gras music, featuring “Iko Iko” by the Dixie Cups and “Big Chief” played by Earl King, Dr. John, the Meters, and Professor Longhair.

Check out our friends’ Mardi Gras Flickr sets here, here, and here.

Today, let the good times roll, and Be a New Orleanian—wherever you are. Tomorrow, it’s Ash Wednesday, and still you can be a New Orleanian wherever you are. Keep the faith, and keep the good times rollin’.

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BeANewOrleanian

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Top photo courtesy of Bart “Editor B” Everson. “Be a New Orleanian” design by Dirty Coast (click here to buy the T-shirt!).

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Do They Know It’s Mardi Gras?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

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Outside of New Orleans and southern Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras generally comes as news—if it comes at all—to people in the rest of the United States when they see footage on network and cable news. Oh, it must be Mardi Gras again. Look at all those crazy-dressed people milling around on Bourbon Street. Now back to work, or looking for a job.

There are emigrés from New Orleans and southern Louisiana all over the U.S. and around the world who feel Carnival coming for weeks before the big day arrives, and we know it’s not a one-day affair (how could it be?). We look around at life going on in January, February, and sometimes March, and wonder how our fellow citizens can not know that Carnival is coming, that it has already started, it’s here. And especially on Fat Tuesday itself—which is today—seeing life go on as Just Another Day, earning just another dollar, we’re reminded of the 1984 Band Aid song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (recorded to raise awareness and aid for the 1983–85 famine in Ethiopia). It is not entirely a fair comparison, but there’s a resemblance, and the question does come up.

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New Orleans–based social justice journalist Jordan Flaherty published an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled Five Myths about Mardi Gras that does a decent job of dispelling some misconceptions about Carnival—we’re all for dispelling false views, especially about New Orleans and Louisiana—and we recommend Jordan’s piece. But first we’d like to offer the following essay, which goes into more detail about the historical, cultural background of what we call Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival. (Interestingly, in this international world we live in, there are other terms in other languages!) We humbly present the following, originally written by one of our staff writers for Festivals and Holidays, a Macmillan Profiles encyclopedia.

Times-Picayune coverage of Mardi Gras here. And see photos of this year’s parades by our friends here, here, and here.

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Mardi Gras: From Ancient Origins, with a New Orleans Twist

Mardi Gras, also called “Shrove Tuesday” or “Fat Tuesday” is a flamboyant Carnival celebration that most Americans associate with the city of New Orleans. The exact date for Mardi Gras varies from year to year, but it always falls on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, forty-one days before Easter.

Mardi Gras has roots deep in pagan rites of ancient Greece, and is the “climax day” of a whole season of festivities—balls, parties, parades—that begins on Twelfth Night, or Epiphany (also known as January 6). Although the festival is most commonly associated with the Crescent City, the first American Mardi Gras was celebrated in Mobile, in present-day Alabama, in the 1830s (except it was really New Year’s Eve). Mardi Gras is still celebrated in Mobile, as well as in other southern Louisiana towns and cities such as Baton Rouge, New Roads, and Lafayette.

“Fat Tuesday,” the culmination of over a month of celebrations, is the great day when the parades of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club and the Krewe of Rex roll down oak-lined St. Charles Avenue into downtown New Orleans, where thousands, or a million—not necessarily sober—are lined along Canal Street, the widest downtown street in America. When the great floats arrive, and the masked captains and marshals in robes of medieval royalty hold out their hands full of beads, people yell, “Throw me somethin’, mister!” and reach up in a joyous frenzy for the colorful beads, cups, doubloons, and the famous painted Zulu coconuts. Though the big parades don’t go into the Vieux Carré anymore, the crowd swells across Canal into the French Quarter: sometimes a million people are crowded together on land that is [just a few feet above] sea level, a quarter mile from the Mississippi River. [Ed. note: bracketed phrase corrects a factual error in the original.]

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Happy Mardi Gras 2011

Monday, March 7th, 2011


“To many New Orleanians, Mardi Gras is not just the day itself, but the season leading up to it. . . . In the two weeks before Fat Tuesday these [Mardi Gras] krewes throw their famous parades. Every night, people from every class and neighborhood make plans to meet “at Bacchus” or for Endymion . . . , picking a corner to meet, bringing food and drinks in coolers, and often ladders with specially constructed boxes on top in which children sit to catch the beads and trinkets that spew from the parade floats like water from the fountain of life itself.” —Tom Piazza, Why New Orleans Matters (pp. 97–98)

 

When the cares of this world grow too heavy, we all need a break from the ordinary, and that is why we have Carnival. And this festive season, which begins at Epiphany and whose climax is Mardi Gras (this year Tuesday, March 8), is a big part of the reason why this blog cares so much about the health and well-being of New Orleans: the city, its people, and its culture. It’s the City That Care Forgot, but also a place that has lately seen too much to worry about (thanks most recently to a company called BP).

But we won’t dwell on the cares just now—that’s what Carnival is for. It’s also for making fun of hardships and folly, flipping ’em around jujitsu-like with a sense of humor, satire, absurdity. Sometimes it’s the only way to deal. Let it go for a while. Lighten up.  The ancient Greeks and Romans, with their bacchanalias and Lupercalia (Carnival’s deep-historical origins), understood that if you don’t cut loose from time to time with a little madness here and there, you get hit with the big madness, the kind that doesn’t go away. Therefore . . .

To all our friends in and around Louisiana, to all who “Be a New Orleanian, Wherever You Are”—we wish a lively and frolicsome Mardi Gras, a celebration of life, humor, imagination, and letting the good times roll, everybody all together.

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“It is rare indeed to have every, or almost every, citizen in a city tuned to the same channel at the same time. Everyone agrees to have a day, the same day, in which no one can be certain what is going to happen. People light out in the morning, often wearing masks or costumes that advance an alternate persona for themselves. They may have certain stops that they know they will want to make, but they are also open to the fact that the winds of the day may lead them elsewhere, and that that is part of the point of it all. One submits to the multifarious flow of chance and felicity, of music and motion.” —Why New Orleans Matters (pp. 98–99)

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Mardi Gras, Lombardi Gras

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

This is a Carnival where you don’t have to say “Happy Mardi Gras” (tho’ we do, anyway)—it simply is a happy Mardi Gras, and everyone’s been in a crazy happy zone for weeks. People are changing their middle names to WhoDat. Maybe it’s ’cause “Breesus Saves,” and the rest of the Saints do, too. And “Hey Shockey Way.” And then too there’s a palpable relief that a popular new mayor has been elected to bring in energy and action where lethargy, passivity, absentia in officio, and lame excuses have held sway for lo these many years.

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One of our writers penned a history of Mardi Gras for a Macmillan encyclopedia a few years ago while living in Mid-City and bouncing between the parades of the Krewe du VieuxIsisEndymion, Bacchus, Orpheus, and the Society of Saint Anne parade through Bywater into the Quarter on Mardi Gras day . . . Here are some excerpts from that article:

Mardi Gras . . . which many assume is a one-day event, has roots deep in pagan rites of ancient Greece, and is the “climax day” of a whole season of festivities—balls, parties, parades—that begins on Twelfth Night, or Epiphany (also known as January 6). Although the festival is most commonly associated with the Crescent City, the first American Mardi Gras was celebrated in Mobile, in present-day Alabama, in the 1830s (except it was really New Year’s Eve). . . .

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Krewe du Vieux’s “All Fired Up,” Baby!

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Postively Flamin’

Of all New Orleans’s wonderful (and some rather sedate) Carnival krewes, Krewe du Vieux is the sassiest, fiestiest, and wittiest, and it pains us to miss even one parade. Led by the great Dr. John as King, this year’s parade’s theme was “All Fired Up” (there was a fire last summer in the krewe’s Den of Muses, quenched by the NOFD).

The krewe’s full name is Krewe du Vieux Carré, and its subkrewes include Krewe de C.R.A.P.S. (shown here), Krewe of Space Age Love, Krewe du Mishigas, Seeds of Decline, Mystic Krewe of Spermes . . . you get the picture. So, to show you what you’re missing when you miss the Krewe du Vieux parade (always three Saturdays before Mardi Gras—Feb. 16 this year), we present some pix from our friend Maitri Erwin’s Flickr photostream (also see her smart, cool VatulBlog). The theme of her subkrewe, C.R.A.P.S., was “Walk on Burning Sphincters.”

Here are some good readers’ photos posted at NOLA.com.

Oh, and did we mention the Saints are in the Super Bowl? Who Dat? Who Dat? Feelin’ “Glory Bound,” y’all.

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Happy Mardi Gras 2009

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

The Festivities and Pageants arranged for his Majesty’s reception will surpass in joyousness and splendor the most brilliant attainments of his glorious past. It is ordained that good weather shall prevail, and the City of Flowers in its Festive array promises abundant pleasure to all within her gates.

—Proclamation by the King of the Carnival, 1934

From Henri Schindler’s Mardi Gras: New Orleans.  Illustration by S. von Ehrens.

From Henri Schindler’s Mardi Gras: New Orleans. Illustration by S. von Ehrens.

To everyone in New Orleans—and wherever Carnival is celebrated—we send warm greetings and best wishes for abundant fun and pleasures on Fat Tuesday, for joyful forgetting and release from heavy cares, and hopes that you may come back to your daily life refreshed and reinvigorated, with not too grinding a hangover.

For the people of Louisiana who are jobless and need unemployment insurance relief, we hope your ambitious governor will come (or be brought) to his senses and accept the financial assistance that Washington has made available for the public good.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

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Happy Mardi Gras 2008!

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

LNW_Momus.1907

Today is both Mardi Gras and Super Tuesday. Sounds auspicious to us. May the best candidates win, and may the public have some good news to celebrate. Drink up. Tomorrow it’s all ashes.

LNW_mermaid.midiFrom The Isle of Orleans:

The Krewe Perdu and the Skeleton Krewe were scheduled to roll in a combined parade soon after sundown. Everyone in town would be there—parents and children, the shopkeepers and gardeners, carriage drivers, vendors from the French Market, the priest and the cremator, the morbids and junk-eating vagabonds from the ragged edges of town, and all but a bare-bones staff from the restaurants and bars.

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Viva New Orleans—for Art’s Sake!

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

One of the happy (re)discoveries at the Rising Tide 2 conference of Katrina bloggers this past weekend was the New Orleanians’ sheer vitality, creativity, and ingenuity-their will to survive, to renew, to make the city better than it was before. We came away reinvigorated, reassured that in at least one American city democracy and citizen activism are alive and well. (If you keep busy, it doesn’t hurt quite as bad—and anyway, struggling for your very survival has a way of concentrating the mind.) In part because some public officials are lame and passive, and others are working but overwhelmed and underfunded, gutsy determined citizens are taking into their own hands the work of rebuilding, forming civic associations, alerting fellow citizens about opportunities and dangers (potential funding, criminal activity on the streets or in City Hall), etc.

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