“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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Photos from Carnival 2011 courtesy of Bart “b.rox” Everson, Wendy WestfaulMaitri Erwin, and Derek Bridges. See also Maitri’s “All Fired Up!” Krewe du Vieux 2010 pix.