Thursday, February 11, 2010

Spotlight on Mardi Gras

So being a Colts fan I was none-to-pleased to watch the Saints swoop away with the Superbowl victory last Sunday.  That being said, at least New Orleans is enjoying their moment in the sun!  So if you missed the "Lombardi-Gras" you can still make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras by Febuary 16th, 2010.

But what is Mardi Gras?  Who started it?  Why do it?  Everybody knows what Mardi Gras is but very few understand what Mardi Gras REALLY is.

(Bourbon Street in Oil)

Well for starters "Mardi Gras" is French for "Fat Tuesday", (note the start date of Mardi Gras).   Mardi Gras is not exclusive to New Orleans but certainly they got the most notorious lock-down on the event in our country.  Other cities that participate?  Pensacola, Mobile, St. Louis, Philly, Galveston and now even Lake Havasu City.  But the king daddy of them all, the New Orleans Mardi Gras, is the place to be.

The origination:  Originally it was brought to the mouth of the Mississippi in 1699 by French settlers celebrating what was a Catholic observance (more on this below).  The starting date of festivities in New Orleans is unknown.  Notes from 1743 indicate that the custom of Carnival balls was already established.  In 1833 a rich plantation owner of French descent, raised money to fund an official Mardi Gras celebration.  In 1875 Louisiana declared Mardi Gras a legal state holiday.

Where did the purple, gold and green colors come from???   From a Russian!!!  Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia picked the colors during a visit to New Orleans in 1872.   Meanings:  JusticePowerFaith.

The beads:  The celebration of Mardi Gras beads records all the way back to the 1840's.  It is believed that the "throwing of the beads" was from the festival customs from the English Renaissance era.  But what about the beads for boobs tradition?   Well, that's mostly done on Burbon Street in the French Quarters.  

But what is the carnival really celebrating?  Mardi Gras is nothing more than a practical day of preparation for the Lenten season. The day itself, celebrates or commemorates nothing. "Mardi Gras" is simply the given name, of the day before Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the Lenten Season.

Mardi Gras has evolved into a rowdy, happy and crazy celebration that vendors, club owners, and others have hijacked and turned it from the quite day of feasting at home, to the parade going, beer guzzling, breast flashing party you sometimes see and hear about.

What are "King Cakes"?  In southern U.S.A., the tradition was brought to the area by colonists from France and Spain.  King Cakes have a small trinket (we use a small plastic golden baby or a coin) hidden beneath a slice. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket is King or Queen of the Day!

Mardi Gras Fun Facts!
  • Float parades were banned from the French Quarter’s narrow streets in 1973
  • More than 500,000 king cakes are sold each year in New Orleans
  • The average rider in a parade spends $600 to $800 just on throws of beads

So there you have it, it's a kinda-holiday that's been re-focused from it's original religious purpose to a more notorious event mostly for tourism.   It has roots founded in France, Spain and even Russia yet it's OUR holiday now.

It's not too late to go party in New Orleans.  Obviously, booking less than a week to the big event isn't going to come cheap.  So if you make it there just have to make sure you get your money's worth in beads while in the French Quarter.


  1. New Orleans is awesome! We went during Mardi Gras but not on Fat Tuesday. Very adventurous.

  2. Would you call the celebration an "adults only" event or could the kids come along Mary?

  3. During the day Bourbon Street and the rest of the rest of the French Quarter are fine for families of all ages. After dark the streets become a walking bar as alcohol is sold from walk-up windows. Definitely not for kids.
    Also one comment about a photo in your post. The one where the girl is smiling and surrounded by the guys. I experienced that with Sean standing on a balcony so he could take pics. It was extremely scary. One minute I was standing having fun and the next it was like a swarm of male bees had been let loose. New Orleans is fantastic but I did have to remember that it was not the local bar and to stay in a group or at least a couple.

  4. WOW look how this New Orleans music is being represented by these icons below

    PBS TV

    The History Of Jazz

    The Huffington Post

    Mickey Carroll
    Grammy Nominee
    Gold Record Recipient


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