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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Happy Mardi Gras! What you might not know about Fat Tuesday

Repost from Mar 5, 2014

Next week is the big day! There's still time to book your flights and have a ball.

New Orleans is known for a great many things, but the most notable — in that no one else in the Union celebrates it with as much fervor — is Mardi Gras. That’s French for “Fat Tuesday”. It’s parties and parades stem out of the Catholic celebration of Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of 40 days of abstinence. Our attitude? Before all that starts let’s party hardy, Marty!

While Mardi Gras is just the one day the season, also called Carnival, starts Jan 6, just after the Twelfth Night of Christmas. The day of Mardi Gras can occur as early as Feb 3th or as late as March 9th, given it’s tied to Easter, and that’s tied to the moon… it’s complicated.

You can Google all that, but what don’t you know that the locals know?

Mardi Gras fact #1: Parades start three weeks early. The first parade that rolls in the name of Mardi Gras is Krewe De Vieux, and it does so on Saturday over three weeks before Mardi Gras. It goes through the faubourgs Bywater, Marigny, and the French Quarter. It’s typically very topical, political, funny, and rude. In other words, very New Orleans. I wouldn’t recommend bringing the kids, unless they are emotionally prepared to see giant penises and boobs on mule-drawn floats. Oh yeah, we got ‘em.

What you see on TV is the worst of the worst. Parade routes are quite long, starting way out in Uptown, and roll miles to get to Canal Street. In that process it begins very family friendly (think of it as the “G” rated version).

Mardi Gras fact #2: That said, not all the parades are like “Girls Gone Wild”.

In fact, float patrons cater to kids, making sure they receive and abundance of attention, goodies, and throws. Parents love it because it’s hours of free entertainment. Many families will “camp out” on St. Charles for the weekend, set up barbecues, and plan activities with families around them. It’s not until the parade reaches the Central Business District (the CBD) that attitudes and morales erode a bit (”PG”), then go to hell around Canal Street (”R”).

Mardi Gras fact #3: There’s a confection made only for the season, and it’s name is King Cake. The original King Cake is a ring shaped bread like coffee cake. It’s difference includes its brilliant colors (purple, green, and gold, for Mardi Gras, of course), and its contents. No, not the eggs, flour, and sugar. It always contains a baby. Yes, this is a choking hazard — you’ve been warned. But receiving the piece with the baby means you are the King or Queen for the season. You get to select your partner (Queen or King, or King or Queen, whatever floats your boat), and next year you’ll host the party whose King Cake selects the next King or Queen. Today you can find King Cake in a very wide culinary net that encompasses everything from donuts, to vodka (http://v.gd/ifeWIQ), to (I kid you not) hamburgers (http://v.gd/whghli). Granted, that proves that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should…

The bottom line:

Don’t think you can’t go because you have kids; bring ‘em along!

Don’t think you have to wait until the day; parades happen weeks in advance.

And be sure to try some King Cakes; I hope you get the baby.

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