Scoot: Eight things you need to know about Mardi Gras
by Scoot,posted Mar 3 2014 6:19PM
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.