Today, Monday, February 27, 2017, is a normal Monday around the country, but here in New Orleans and across the Gulf South, it is anything but – it’s Lundi Gras! Fat Monday!
Mardi Gras is one of the many things that separates us from the rest of the country this time of year, and if you think about what we go through to enjoy the revelry, it makes it difficult to make it seem like something rational people would do voluntarily.
We endure traffic jams that could be described as a “rush hour on steroids.” We often leave the comfort of our homes many hours even days, before the parades begin to stake out territory so we can wait for hours before the parades pass by.
The crowds are 10-12-14 people thick and there’s pushing and bumping into one another – and that’s even before the parade arrives. And, that physical contact only intensifies, when riders on floats shower crowds with beads, cups, stuffed animals, spears, coconuts and a variety of items fitting for the décor in a child bedroom.
Some women lift their shirts exposing their breasts in exchange for worthless beads, which can only mean they really wanted to experience a moment of uninhabited bliss.
Many wear costumes that are uncomfortable, but bring joy to the rest of us on the other side, who smile, laugh, take photos or videos. And on weekends and especially on Mardi Gras day, countless revelers will make a conscience decision to begin drinking early in the morning with the understanding that they will drink all day. The only explanation for why we do all this -because we can!
Mardi Gras is a unique gathering and the history of wearing masks explains the spirit of this special time. In the beginning, masks were worn by many so everyone was perceived as being equal on that day.
At the time, society was divided differently than today. People were separated by class and were not allowed to gather with everyone. Masks hid the identity of one’s class, which allowed everyone to gather together and mingle.
Maybe we should think about the history behind wearing masks on Mardi Gras day, even if we’re not wearing one? Our nation has never been this emotionally divided along political lines in modern history. Mardi Gras should be appreciated as a time when we all - rich, poor, young, old, male, female, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, straight, gay, Christian, Muslim come together for a common celebration.
The meaning behind wearing masks on Mardi Gras Day should serve as a reminder that we should, but don’t always treat each other equally.
It would be nice if we could carry the spirit of Mardi Gras throughout the year... and throughout America!