The weather on Mardi Gras Day 2014 was very cold and rainy, and that was not what was expected considering that it was a March Mardi Gras, but we can look back on Mardi Gras 2014 as a success!
Since human nature seems to encourage more complaining than praise, it is important that we go out of our way to acknowledge the positive over the negative.
Every year there are complaints about behavior in the crowds and with some of the riders on the floats. As I hosted the WWL Mardi Gras Mambo Review yesterday afternoon, a caller complained about a group of young people that set up their temporary territory near his family and friends and vulgar music began to blare from their area. The man said the music was so offensive that he apologized to guests visiting from out-of-town and then moved his group to another location.
I can understand the man's frustration and vulgarity in public is not a new controversy. I would never be accused of being a prude or overprotective of society, but I don't think vulgar music should be tolerated in a public setting, like a Mardi Gras parade. But with great respect for the First Amendment, I admit that this is a difficult discussion.
While I would not judge what anyone listens to in their car or in the privacy of their home, we should all expect a show of respect for each other. Admittedly, that's a lot to expect.
There were also the typical complaints about people along a parade route blocking others or even moving in front of those who had been in position for the parade for hours. Lacking respect for others is an annoying reality.
But when you consider the number of people in the streets for parades and in the French Quarter and compare the size of the crowd to the number of incidents that occur, you can't help but have a positive impression of humanity.
The police and city workers do a phenomenal job every year during Mardi Gras, but if it were not for the attitude and the behavior of the crowds, in general, Mardi Gras would not be such an amazing celebration.
So, as we pay tribute to the long hours on the job and the competence of law enforcement and city workers, let us also give ourselves credit for coming together in massive numbers for the simple purpose of sharing a moment of fun during Mardi Gras. If the people of New Orleans and the surrounding areas who participate in Mardi Gras every year were not good, tolerate and respectful individuals, Mardi Gras would be chaos and would have ceased to exist long ago.
Every year there are those who come to New Orleans and experience Mardi Gras for the first time and without any lessons on what to do and how to act, even the first-timers quickly fit into our cultural mayhem! We must be setting a good example.
In spite of the countless displays of vulgarity and disrespect, Mardi Gras does teach us that we can come together as a community and bond over what we have in common – rather than think about what separates us.
I often talk about the "nature of news" on The Scoot Show on WWL – which is to focus on the negative and outrageous, even in the face of much that is positive and normal. The "nature of news" is determined by human nature. We are more prone to complain than to praise and the news reflects that human tendency.
The news is more likely to present the confrontations and the problems over the endless examples of goodness in a crowd. That's why it is important for us to take a look into society's mirror once in awhile and recognize the positives that far outnumber the negatives.
I hope you can reflect back on Mardi Gras this year, and every year, and appreciate the positive things it says about us and our community.
Today is Lundi Gras – the day before Mardi Gras! During the Lundi Gras celebration, Rex, the king of carnival, arrived at Spanish Plaza and met King Zulu for a toast to Mardi Gras 2014. The celebration covered the riverfront from Woldenberg Park to Spanish Plaza with food and music. Cowboy Mouth and The Topcats were part of the Lundi Gras celebration 2014!
Tomorrow is Mardi Gras Day – Fat Tuesday! On the Christian calendar it is a final day of debauchery before the beginning of the solemn and sacrificial season of Lent. Mardi Gras Day is the culmination of the Carnival season. Carnival comes from the Latin words meaning "farewell to the flesh." And since this festive time is all about preparing for Lent and saying "farewell to the flesh," you will see a lot of people showing their "flesh" for the last time before Lent.
This Carnival season officially began on January 6 – Epiphany - King's Day – 12 days after Christmas when the Wise Men visited Baby Jesus bearing gifts. Epiphany is also the traditional season for King cakes. Legend tells us that the King cakes were made in a circle to represent the circular journey the Wise Men took to get to Jesus in order to confuse King Herod, who was planning to kill the Christ Child.
Originally, a coin or bean was placed in the King cake and whoever got the coin or bean in their piece of cake was believed to have good luck over the upcoming year. In Louisiana, the tradition of placing a plastic baby in the King cake was born and the person who got the baby in their piece was expected to have the next King cake party.
In the middle of the second century, the Romans observed a 40 day fast, which followed a brief period of feasting, wearing costumes and general misbehaving. Mardi Gras spread across Europe from Rome and eventually made it to the colonies of the New World. It is believed that the first American Mardi Gras took place in Mobile, Alabama in 1703. But in the 1730s, New Orleans began to mark the celebration with fancy balls and wild street parties – not much has changed!
The first parade in New Orleans is believed to have taken place on Fat Tuesday in 1827, but the first official parade was not recognized until 10 years later.
The tradition of wearing masks on Mardi Gras Day began hundreds of years ago. By wearing masks, the different social classes could intermingle and celebrate together without the restrictive separation of the classes. With a mask on, no one knew who was a member of which social class so all were treated equally in the celebration.
The tradition of throwing beads first began during Carnival in 1872 and the color of the beads, now the official colors of Mardi Gras, were selected by the king that year. Purple represented justice, gold was for power and green meant faith. Originally, the participants in the parade would pick out people in the crowd and throw the color of the beads that most represented the people whose behavior reflected each color's meaning. Also, the first beads were made out of glass.
Some of the Christian groups that spread the message of Jesus to the rowdy, drunken partiers on Bourbon Street do not seem to be real Christians. Yesterday, while I was taking a picture of the banners that warn that everyone is going to Hell, one of the members of a Christian group on Bourbon looked at me and over his bullhorn addressed me, "Are you a man – or a woman? Do you have a mirror? Look at you? What are you – a man or a woman?" Then he proceeded to use profanity in describing behavior among gays and lesbians in public with children present.
A young woman from England confronted the Christian group and then told me that this "bull***t" would never happen in England!
There is a news story about one of the pastors on Bourbon Street, who was caught in the act of self-gratification in public in front of kids.
Don't judge ALL Christians by the behavior of those who are misguided by their zealotry and hate.
The most important thing to know about Mardi Gras is that this is a time to celebrate the breaking down of social, economic, ethnic and all barriers that seem to separate us. On a daily basis, reaction to the news emphasizes the things that appear to separate us - as groups and individuals. The origin of wearing masks on Mardi Gras was to prevent distinguishing one class from another so everyone could come together. And that is what we should all celebrate about Mardi Gras – a special time when we remember that we can share a fun time together and maintain a cultural tradition – regardless of our place in society.