*** New Orleans knows how to celebrate! Join the fun, listen to the rocking great Saints songs from hip hop to country, laugh at the outrageous costumes eagerly anticipated during Mardi Gras in the French Quarter, and, oh yeah, read some funny and serious Mardi Gras quotes to learn how the custom developed over time. Marvel at the resiliency of the people through tough times.
From Denny: Oh, to explain the Louisiana culture to someone who has never visited... :) It can get a bit raucous during the Mardi Gras Carnival season. The most family friendly parades are in Lafayette, the capital city of Baton Rouge and the smaller venues throughout the state if that's your preference.
Though since Hurricane Katrina many neighborhoods in New Orleans have organized their own more family friendly parades to counterbalance the general debauchery that tends to go on more from the tourists than the locals during Carnival season. Yeah, that's what we tell ourselves every year... :)
Day time Mardi Gras parade photo by sfmission.com @ flickr
Fine art Melon Babe by Infrogmation @ flickr
Right now Mardi Gras started early with the Super Bowl win of the Cinderella team the New Orleans Saints. What a celebration it is! The whole state stayed awake the night of the win as none of us could sleep even if we weren't partying in the French Quarter.
The word is over 270 Baton Rouge teachers called in sick Monday morning after the win because they partied just a little too much in New Orleans after the Super Bowl win. That's the beauty of living in Baton Rouge. Within an hour's drive you can party to the east in New Orleans or go west and party in Lafayette where they host some wonderful international music festivals.
Rocking great song captures the spirit of New Orleans:
The parade thrown last night for the Saints was nothing short of spectacular as Mardi Gras folks threw it together literally on a moment's notice. Trust me; no one in America, not even the Macy's Parade organization could have put together a full blown parade this fast. New Orleans is accustomed to living on the edge and rose to the occasion.
Country version of New Orleans song:
This video is from right before the Saints won against the Arizona Cardinals in a play-off game for the NFC Championship Title - after that was won another win against the Minnesota Vikings, sending the Saints to the Super Bowl - another unexpected win! Watch it just to learn about why the fans are wearing paper bags over their heads during the games. :)
Enjoy the funny costumes from Mardi Gras this year!
* I have 2,000 gospel singers and 35 Mardi Gras Indian tribes. You can't just call an agent and order them up.” - Quint Davis
* Mardi Gras starts tomorrow in New Orleans. Talk about perfect timing. Those truckloads of ice from FEMA just showed up. - Bill Maher
* This Mardi Gras will be a little different. This year when drunks yell up at the balcony, 'Show us your boobs!' Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff walk out. - Bill Maher
* Mardi Gras is going on in New Orleans. Actually it's scaled down quite a bit. Now when you throw a bead, women only flash one boob. - Jay Leno
* Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, and of course, this being America, it will be followed by Even Fatter Wednesday, Obese Thursday and Fat-A$$ Friday. - Jay Leno
Mardi Gras feathers by Infrogmation @ flickr
* It's Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Everybody has Mardi Gras fever. I was watching the 'Today' show earlier today and Tom Cruise was lecturing Matt Lauer about jambalaya. - David Letterman
* They have the big parade down in New Orleans and this year FEMA has a float, but it's not expected 'til labor day. - David Letterman
* In New Orleans, the Paris Casino reopened and officials are calling it a sign of progress. If you didn't lose your house before, you can now. - Jay Leno
* In his speech President Bush said we need to rebuild Iraq, provide the people with jobs, and give them hope. If it works there maybe we'll try it in New Orleans. - Jay Leno
* The first baby has been born in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Yeah, they named it FEMA because it finally showed up after nine months. - Jay Leno
* Pakistan had one of the worst natural disasters ever, up to 50,000 people dead after an earthquake this week. But of course it's not a resort, no supermodels like the tsunami, so it doesn't really get covered. But other nations are trying to help. They've offered food, medicine, corpse-sniffing dogs. New Orleans sent a volunteer team of cops to beat the crap out of survivors. - Bill Maher
* You know I love New Orleans, they're vowing to hold Mardi Gras this year come hell or -- no pun -- high water. This is interesting, they've always had a Mardi Gras drink called the Hurricane. They're not going to serve that this year, but they've got a new one called the FEMA. It's strong, it hits you about a week later. - Bill Maher
* They say the toxic water and sludge smells so bad in New Orleans that they're thinking of renaming the city Newark. - Jay Leno
* The president said much of the aid is going towards job training. And when they heard that, the people of New Orleans rose as one and said, 'Can we start with you?' - Bill Maher
* Bush called the rebuilding of New Orleans one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen, second only to Cher. - Jay Leno
* The rebuilding of New Orleans is already underway. The relief and reconstruction contracts for rebuilding the city have already been awarded, many of them no bid. Among the recipients, major Republican contributors Bechtel and Fluor, the Shaw Group, client of Joe Allbaugh, ex-FEMA head, and, of course, come on, don't be shy, say it with me -- Halliburton. - Jon Stewart
* President Bush toured New Orleans. He saw something that was below sea level: his approval ratings. - Jay Leno
* Taking a page from their tsunami playbook, the White House announced today that former presidents Bush and Bill Clinton will head up the fundraising efforts for the hurricane relief. And you know, Bill Clinton is no stranger to this kind of thing. He was once visiting the French Quarter during a hurricane and got blown behind a dumpster. - Bill Maher
* But hey, it is New Orleans. Watching today, I could tell that this city has not lost its hope. It has not lost its distinctive pluck, because every time rescue teams would toss supplies to people, women flashed their breasts. - Bill Maher
Rebuild Revive New Orleans photo by howieluvzus @ flickr
These are some serious quotes. What Mark Twain, Louis Armstrong, Calvin Trillin and others have had to say about New Orleans's most raucous cultural ritual. These quotes describe the history, the culture, the visceral atmostphere of the New Orleans festival.
* The Roman Carnival and other European Carnivals, all of which begin to be reported with frequency only in the 14th century, have no documentable connection with ancient [Greek and Roman] festivities.
It was easy enough for 15th and 16th century reformers to associate with pagan materialism and sensuality the boisterous games and bodily self-indulgence that developed in Carnival. From the 16th century onwards city and state authorities in both Catholic and Protestant areas sometimes found it useful to support the mistaken notion of pagan origins in their efforts to suppress the festival's disorderliness.
The Bacchanalia, Saturnalia, Lupercalia, and so on, however frequently they may be invoked in the Gulf Coast parades or in Sunday-supplement explanations of the festivity, have nothing to do with the historical origin of Mardi Gras or the origins of its origin in Europe's Carnivals. - Carnival, American Style: Mardi Gras at New Orleans and Mobile (University of Chicago Press, 1990), by Samuel Kinser
* At 9 o'clock, or thereabouts, the flare of torchlights shattered the darkness of Magazine and Julia Streets, bands burst into symphony, and the Mistick Krewe stood revealed — a company of demons, rich and realistic, moving in a procession that seemed to blaze from some secret chamber of the earth.
They came! Led by the festive Comus, high on his royal seat, and Satan, high on a hill, far blazing as a mount, with pyramids and towers from diamond quarries hewn, and rocks of gold; the palace of great Lucifer. The demon actors in Milton's Paradise Lost. The first torchlit scenic procession in New Orleans, a revolution in street pageantry, a revelation in artistic effects. - The Mistick Krewe: Chronicles of Comus and his Kin (Carnival Press, 1931), by Perry Young
* [In 1857,] the Mistick Krewe [Comus] introduced spectacle to the streets of New Orleans, and Carnival was forever changed. Comus would not only reappear every Mardi Gras night, he would do so amid flames and smoking flares of moving theater, and each year he would present new visions to astonish a population long nourished on masquerades, parades, and stagecraft. With the advent of the Mistick Krewe of Comus, the festivities of Mardi Gras were ended with public ceremony of pomp and bombast, with mystery, artistry, and ritual splendor. - Mardi Gras: New Orleans (Flammarion, 1997), by Henri Schindler
* The night cometh in which we take no note of time, and forget that we are living in a practical age which relegates romance to printed pages and merriment to the stage. Yet what is more romantic than the Night of the Masked Ball — the too brief hours of light, music, and fantastic merriment which seem to belong to no age and yet to all?
Somehow or other, in spite of all the noisy frolic of such nights, the spectacle of a Mardi Gras Ball impresses one at moments as a ghastly and unreal scene. The apparitions of figures which belong to other ages; the Venetian mysteries of the domino; the witcheries of beauty half-veiled; the tantalizing salutes from enigmatic figures you cannot recognize; the pretty mockeries whispered into your ear by some ruddy lips whose syllabling seems so strangely familiar and yet defies recognition; the King himself seated above the shifting rout impenetrable as a Sphinx; and the kaleidoscopic changing and flashing of colors as the merry crowd whirls and sways under the musical breath of the orchestra — seem hardly real, hardly possible to belong in any manner to the prosaic life of the century.
Even the few impassioned spectators who remain maskless and motionless form so strange a contrast that they seem like watchers in a haunted palace silently gazing upon a shadowy festival which occurs only once a year in the great hall exactly between the hours of twelve and three. While the most beautiful class of costumes seem ghostly only in that they really belong to past ages, the more grotesque and outlandish sort seem strangely suggestive of a goblin festival.
And above all the charms of the domino! Does it not seem magical that a woman can, by a little bright velvet and shimmering silk, thus make herself into a fairy? And the glorious Night is approaching — this quaint, old-time night, star-jeweled, fantastically robed; and the blue river is bearing us fleets of white boats thronged with strangers who doubtless are dreaming of lights and music, the tepid, perfumed air of Rex's palace, and the motley route of merry ghosts, droll goblins, and sweet fairies, who will dance the dance of Carnival until blue day puts out at once the trembling tapers of the stars and the lights of the great ball. - The Dawn of the Carnival (The New Orleans Item, February 2, 1880), by Lafcadio Hearn
* Carnival is a butterfly of winter whose last real flight of Mardi Gras forever ends his glory. Another season is the season of another butterfly, and the tattered, scattered, fragments of rainbow wings are in turn the record of his day. - The Mistick Krewe: Chronicles of Comus and his Kin, by Perry Young
* The celebration of Mardi Gras is an episode that never becomes stale to the people of the city, however monotonous the description or even the enumeration of its entertainments appears to strangers. At any age it makes a Creole woman young to remember it as she saw it at eighteen; and the description of what it appeared to the eyes of eighteen, would be, perhaps, the only fair description of it, for if Mardi Gras means anything, it means illusion; and unfortunately, when one attains one's majority in the legal world, one ceases to be a citizen of Phantasmagoria.
"There is a tradition that young matrons have recognized their husbands in their masked cavaliers at balls; and that the Romeo incognito of many a debutante has resolved into a brother, or even father; but at least it is not the debutante who makes the discovery. Her cavalier is always beyond her illusion, living in the Elysium of her future, as the cavalier of the matron is always some no less cherished illusion from the Elysium of the past.
As it is the desire of the young girl to be the subject of these illusions, so it is the desire of the young boy to become the object of them. To put on a mask and costume, to change his personality; to figure some day in the complimentary colouring of a prince of India, or of a Grecian god, or even to ape the mincing graces of a dancing girl or woodlawn nymph; to appear to the inamorata, clouded in the unknown, as the ancient gods did to simple shepherdesses; and so to excite her imagination, and perhaps more. A god is only a man when he is in love; and a man, all a god. - New Orleans: The Place and the People (Macmillan, 1913), by Grace King (as quoted in Mardi Gras: New Orleans, by Henri Schindler)
* It [Mardi Gras] is a thing that could hardly exist in the practical North....For the soul of it is the romantic, not the funny and the grotesque. Take away the romantic mysteries, the kings and knights and big-sounding titles, and Mardi Gras would die, down there in the South. - Life on the Mississippi (Harper & Brothers, 1896), by Mark Twain
King Cake by syvwich @ flickr
* Voodoo did not exert a direct musical influence on the Mardi Gras Indians, but it was a cornerstone of the cultural tradition out of which they eventually developed — a living link to the African spirit cults of the Caribbean.
"Large drum-and-dance convocations by slaves surfaced about 1800 on a grassy field behind the French Quarter, now Louis Armstrong Park....The gathering site was called Place Congo—in later years, with English supplanting French as the local language, Congo Square. Drums boomed. Big wooden horns sent out notes. And from the shacks and shanties of the slave quarters came hundreds of men and women to the Sunday gatherings to dance, to make rhythm, to express freedom.
"As a spirit figure, the Indian would never have entered the folk streams of New Orleans music had it not been for Carnival. Congo Square was suppressed about 1835, though some gatherings probably occurred afterward.
"Beginning in the 1880s, the Mardi Gras Indians started the slow rise out of submersion that the mother culture underwent with the disappearance of Congo Square and voodoo. The Indians' chants were not set to drums, but to hand-percussion instruments such as tambourines. They did not worship spirits per se, but through a slow-evolving body of coded lyrics established a tribal hierarchy that praised the Indian nations and celebrated the bravery of rebellion.
The Mardi Gras Indians gave light to the memory of an African past, but in a ritual fashion that embraced the Indian as an adopted spirit figure. It was the highest compliment the African could pay a race of the New World; it stemmed from a common struggle, sociocultural intercourse, a shared vision of freedom — but most of all, from a profoundly African ritual retention. The Indian followed the procession of rebellious slaves, voodoo cultists, and Congo Square dancers in the historical memory. - Up From the Cradle of Jazz: New Orleans Music Since World War II (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986), by Jason Berry, Jonathan Foose and Tad Jones
* Carnival became ever more necessary for black New Orleans. It filled basic needs increasingly denied the people by allowing new identities to take shape. Creoles and the black bourgeois emulated the white aristocracy with society balls, but a network of social aid and pleasure clubs arose around Carnival.
The costumes were another matter altogether. To whites, they were largely toy disguises, fancy fleetings reflecting one's humor or elan. To the black consciousness, masking often took on a heightened meaning. The mask became a cover, a new identity, a persona eluding the white policeman or soldier; the mask gave ephemeral freedom; the whole organic presence of the costume could scare people, delight them, it could satirize or do any number of things provided the person inside it fulfilled the role to the core of his imagination.
In this way, Carnival became one linear extension of Congo Square. Out of the flickering memory of African spiritualism and percussive ceremony came a procession of spirit figures, an inherited cultural consciousness marching into Carnival. - Up From the Cradle of Jazz: New Orleans Music Since World War II, by Jason Berry, Jonathan Foose and Tad Jones
* The New Orleans 1885 Mardi Gras was extraordinary. On the streets were large numbers of international visitors connected with the [World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial] Exposition, several Central American Indian groups, and some fifty to sixty Plains Indians from the [Buffalo Bill] Wild West Show, including four chiefs, all of whom were likely on the street in native dress. For [locals of African descent, particularly groups who took to masking as Indians,] Mardi Gras translated nicely into a freedom celebration, a day to commemorate their own history and spirit, to be arrogant, to circumvent the hostile authorities, to overturn the established order, and now and then to seek revenge. - Mardi Gras Indians (Pelican Publishing Company, 1994), by Michael P. Smith
* Now everybody in the world has heard about the New Orleans Mardi Gras, but maybe not about the Indians, one of the biggest feats that happened in Mardi Gras. Even at the parades with floats and costumes that cost millions, why, if the folks heard the sign of the Indians:
— that big parade wouldn't have anybody there: the crowd would flock to see the Indians. When I was a child, I thought they really was Indians. They were paint and blankets and, when they danced, one would get in the ring and throw his head back and downward, stooping over and bending his knees, making a rhythm with his heels and singing—T'ouwais, bas q'ouwais—and the tribe would answer — Ou tendais.
"They would dance and sing and go on just like regular Indians, because they had the idea they wanted to act just like the old Indians did in years gone by and so they lived true to the traditions of the Indian style. They went armed with fictitious spears and tommyhawks and so forth and their main object was to make their enemy bow.
They would send their spy-boys two blocks ahead—I happened to be a spy-boy myself once so I know how this went—and when a spy-boy would meet another spy from an enemy tribe he'd point his finger to the ground and say, 'Bow-wow.' And if they wouldn't bow, the spy-boy would use the Indian call, 'Woo-woo-woo-woo-woo,' that was calling the tribes—and, many a time, in these Indian things, there would be a killing and next day would be somebody in the morgue. - Mister Jelly Roll: The Fortunes of Jelly Roll Morton, New Orleans Creole and "Inventor of Jazz" (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1950), by Alan Lomax
* Another thing about Mardi Gras when I was a kid was that it was a revenge day. That's why a lot of people didn't come out in the street. If a guy had a misunderstanding with someone in the summer, he'd wait until Carnival day when the street was crowded, and he'd just put on a woman's dress and he'd roll his pants up underneath that. And the only way you can trick him is if you're dressed like a woman too. All you'd hear is people scream and see a man fall with an ice pick in him, and [the assailant would] go into a barroom and leave that dress on the floor. Oh yeah, it used to be real lowdown. - Allison (Tootie) Montana, big chief (now retired) of The Yellow Pocahontas, Offbeat magazine, February 1994
* Whereas revelers used Mardi Gras to satirize prohibitionists and other reformers, early-twentieth-century reformers pointed to New Orleans Carnival as an example of just what needed reforming. In 1908, the Reverend Charles L. Collins of the Kentucky Anti-Saloon League visited New Orleans to see Carnival. Collins proclaimed that 'no city on the continent offers harder problems for the reformer.' Much about the city's easy ways displeased him, including certain aspects of Carnival. 'As to the Mardi Gras festivities proper,' he wrote, 'I am both delighted and shocked beyond measure.' - All on a Mardi Gras Day: Episodes in the History of New Orleans Carnival (Harvard University Press, 1995), by Reid Mitchell
* One of my first memories of the [Mardi Gras Indian] tribes was of a Wild Man from a tribe called the White Eagles coming down the street on horseback, firing double-barrel shotgun loads of colored glass pellets into the air to get everyone's attention and clear the way — which he definitely succeeded in doing. - Under a Hoodoo Moon: The Life of the Night Tripper (St. Martin's Press, 1994), by Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) with Jack Rummel
* One of the gangs was made up of all the whores and pimps from Perdido Street; their parade was called Gangster Molls and Baby Dolls. Everyone in this group dressed as outlandishly as possible: The women wore eye-popping dresses; the ones who looked highest-priced wore ultra-sharp women's suits, but with see-through bras underneath. Others wore slit miniskirts showing lace panties, stiletto heels, and flowery low-cut blouses. The pimps got decked out in acey-deucy Stetsons with cocked brims, jelly-roll-peg zoot suits, one-button roll coats with wide lapels, and zebra-skinned shoes; not infrequently, they'd strut down the street with canes made out of bull dicks.
"They were ridiculous and funny all at the same time. They'd come busting out of their dives during Mardi Gras, their dresses and suits lined in satin and glitter, real sharp-looking and hilarious. They'd march down the greens, that broad strip of grass that separates one side of the street from the other, cutting up, shakin' the bacon and carrying on, and everyone would back off to let them start high-steppin'.
And you had best back off, too, because they took their kicks seriously. They were real rowdy. Cats would brandish switchblades, and whip them out in your face if you got too close. The tribes always drew a big crowd of black and white folks, but this kind of thing seemed normal to me as a kid. Didn't every town have tribes? I thought so. - Under a Hoodoo Moon: The Life of the Night Tripper (St. Martin's Press, 1994), by Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) with Jack Rummel
Coffinmobile three wheeler by Infrogmation @ flickr
* There's a thing I've dreamed of all my life, and I'll be damned if it don't look like it's about to come true — to be King of the Zulu's parade. After that, I'll be ready to die. - Louis Armstrong, Time magazine, February 21, 1949
* It's a funny thing how life can be such a drag one minute and a solid sender the next. The day I got out of jail Mardi Gras was being celebrated. It is a great day for all of New Orleans, and particularly for the Zulu Aid Pleasure and Social Club. Every member of the Club masquerades in a costume burlesquing some famous person. The King of the Zulus, also in masquerade costume, rides with six other Zulus on a float giving away coconuts as souvenirs. The members march to the good jumping music of the brass bands while the King on his throne scrapes and bows to the cheering crowds.
"When I ran into this celebration and the good music I forgot all about Sore Dick [the dreaded prison yard captain] and the Parish Prison. Most of the members of the Zulu Club then lived around Liberty and Perdido Streets, but now Mardi Gras has become so famous—people come from all over America to see its parade—that it includes doctors, lawyers and other important people from all over the city. Later on a Lady Zulu Club was organized. It has been my lifelong dream to be the King of the Zulus, as it was the dream of every kid in my neighborhood. - Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans
(Prentice-Hall, 1954), by Louis Armstrong (King Zulu 1949)
Captain Mardi Gras by Mr. Gunn @ flickr
* On Mardi Gras 1928, a crowd gathered around a woman on Canal Street dancing the Black Bottom. A friend of the dancer's played the ukulele while the crowd 'stamped their feet.' An admiring fat man 'flung her a handful of coins.' If he thought the dancer would appreciate his largess, he was wrong. She gathered the coins together and threw them back at him. 'Anybody can tell you're not used to Carnival!' she cried. 'On Mardi Gras we dance 'cause we want to.' - All on a Mardi Gras Day: Episodes in the History of New Orleans Carnival, by Reid Mitchell
* We was all sittin' around about three o'clock in the morning in my house [trying to decide how to mask for Mardi Gras], when a gal named Althea jumps up and says, 'Let's be ourselves. Let's be Baby Dolls. That's what the pimps always called us.' We decided to call ourselves the Million Dollar Baby Dolls and be red hot....Some of us made our dresses, and some had 'em made. We was all looking sharp. There was thirty of us—the best whores in town. We was all good lookin' and we had money all over us, even in our bloomers, and they didn't have no zippers.....When them Baby Dolls strutted, they strutted. We showed our linen that day, I'm tellin' you. - Baby Doll interview from the late 1930s (as quoted in Mardi Gras: New Orleans, by Henri Schindler)
* As they had for decades, [brass bands] provided the music for the endless cycle of dances and parades in New Orleans, popularizing the startling fusion of influences and celebration that came to be hailed as the only original art form created in America. It would be hyperbole, if not false, to name jazz a child of Carnival; however the joyous license of the music owes more than passing acquaintance to the liberties of Mardi Gras and a population long-accustomed to dancing in the streets. - Mardi Gras: New Orleans, by Henri Schindler
* On Mardi Gras the women of Storyville [New Orleans' red-light district, where prostitution was legal from 1897 to 1917] did not mingle with the maskers but remained in their neighborhood, which now was spreading into the French Quarter, as they took over the houses left by the vanishing Creoles, who once had also possessed Mardi Gras. Now, on that day, Carnival revelers would wander through Storyville in the hours between parades, to gasp at Arlington's 'five-dollar house' with its huge chandeliers and beveled mirrors.
They would drop in at the Countess Willie Piazza's, where the girls were always in lovely Egyptian costumes on Mardi Gras, and at Lulu White's, where there were bedrooms with walls and ceilings composed entirely of mirrors. They could peep through shutters into the cheap cribs, where naked girls sat around awaiting patrons....And they heard the new kind of music being played in Storyville called 'jass,' which was being introduced in other parts of the city but was considered rather indecent. - Mardi Gras (Doubleday, 1948), by Robert Tallent
* I am the oldest, I am the best, and I am the prettiest. - Allison (Tootie) Montana, The New York Times, February 19, 1995
* It is hereby decreed that melancholy be put to route, and joy unconfined seize our subjects, young and old of all genders and degrees...that the spirit of make-believe descend upon the realm and banish from the land the dull and the humdrum and the commonplace of daily existence. - public proclamation, Morgan L. Whitney, King of Carnival (Rex),1967
* The idea of a celebrity leading the Bacchus parade was indeed unique. It went against the grain of 113 years of Carnival tradition. There had never been a celebrity king of a Carnival krewe. Naturally, the idea wasn't met with open arms from the Carnival establishment. The idea was a total departure from the time-honored tradition of selecting a king from the ranks of the krewes.
Leopard drummers by Infrogmation @ flickr
'These guys are crazy!' [float builder Blaine] Kern told his wife when he arrived home from the first meeting. 'They want to bring some hot-shot to town and make him king of their parade. Imagine. It will never work.' - Silver Jubilee (Krewe of Bacchus' 25th-anniversary book,1993), by Bonnie Warren
* I have trouble explaining to out-of-towners why people here spend $1,000 to wear a mask so no one knows who they are, and then give away things to people they've never met. But I guess it's an opportunity for everybody to play Santa Claus. That's at the heart of it. - Arthur Hardy, publisher of Arthur Hardy's Mardi Gras Guide, explaining why members of Carnival krewes dig into their pockets year after year to ride in parades and throw trinkets, New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 28, 1992
* If you write Mr. Mardi Gras, I get the mail. Do you believe that? Like Santa Claus. - Blaine Kern, float builder and captain of Krewe of Alla, Forbes magazine, October 9, 1995
* Mardi Gras may be best known to the outside world as a public festival, but upper-class New Orleans knew that its real significance lay in the annual reaffirmation of social eminence over merit. The most potent symbol of that creed came on the night of Mardi Gras, when Rex and Comus held their balls in different sections of the municipal auditorium. The evening ended when the mock royalty of the two krewes staged the traditional 'meeting of the courts' shortly before midnight. It was not for nothing that the bare-faced Rex, chosen in part for his civic contributions, had to traipse over and pay his respects to the mysterious Comus. - Lords of Misrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of Race in New Orleans (University Press of Mississippi, 1997), by James Gill
* The current structure of Mardi Gras, which blacks refer to as the 'white parade season,' dates from the latter half of the nineteenth century. After the consolidation of the Anglo-American establishment, the 'official' Mardi Gras became an event that primarily perpetuated the interests of white high society. The common people's carnival—with its subversion of the dominant order, wild dancing, and festive transgressions (iconoclastic celebration of freedom through cross dressing, 'obscenity,' and other behavior offensive to genteel Americans—was relegated to the back streets and ignored by the press. - Mardi Gras Indians, by Michael P. Smith
* A few months before the 1992 Carnival, a black city-council member named Dorothy Mae Taylor introduced an ordinance that would prohibit a parade permit to any group that discriminated on the basis of race or religion or gender.... In New Orleans, it had always been assumed that people would celebrate Carnival in their own way, whether it was by riding in the parade of an all-woman krewe or holding a ball-gown contest for men in drag. There was a widespread feeling that applying human-relations-commission rules to Carnival might not only rob it of its oldest parades but sink it altogether. - "New Orleans Unmasked" (The New Yorker magazine,
February 2, 1998), by Calvin Trillin
* Momus, Son of Night, God of Mockery and Ridicule, regretfully and respectfully informs his friends, supporters and his public that he will not parade the streets of New Orleans on the Thursday evening before Shrove Tuesday, 1992, as he has customarily since 1872. - Momus's parade cancellation announcement,
issued in response to the City Council's anti-discrimination ordinance
* The rise and gradual decline of the old-line krewes pretty well mirrored the fortunes of New Orleans itself. Comus was born as an unparalleled spectacle in a vibrant city that was the commercial queen of the South. When he disappeared from the streets [as a result of the anti-discrimination ordinance], New Orleans had become a faded dowager trying desperately to regain her lost prestige while the taste of Carnival paradegoers had switched to the razzle-dazzle offered by a welter of upstart krewes. - Lords of Misrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of Race in New Orleans, by James Gill
* Mardi Gras is a controlled riot. It's a million people walking out on the street, drinkin'. Ten days of everybody coming out here gettin' drunk and havin' fun. Ten days of us working 16, 18 hours a day.... Basically everybody's just having a good time, tryin' to enjoy themselves, and they don't mean any harm to anybody else. It's just the world's largest free party, and people like everything free.
"People come out here on Mardi Gras day in $800 suits. Just for a doubloon worth maybe 3 cents, they'll sort of dive on the ground and rip up an $800 suit. Grandmas with walking canes you'll see diving, pushing people out the way to get a pair of beads. People just go totally berserk when they come here—loose all their their inhibitions, they forget everything they ever been taught in their life. - Sgt. Billy Roth, New Orleans Police Department, Cops (March 20, 1996)
* As the celebration in the [French] Quarter has come more and more to resemble spring vacation in a Florida beach town that has no police force, exhibitionism has become part of the Carnival-bead transaction, and the most widely heard cry is no longer 'Throw me something, Mister' but 'Show us your tits.' - "New Orleans Unmasked," by Calvin Trillin
* As cameras for MTV, true-life crime shows and tabloid news programs roll in the French Quarter, the drunken partying has grown so extreme—flashes of nudity have given way to the actual performance of oral sex acts on Bourbon Street—that it is the drunkenness and obscenity itself that threatens to become Carnival's theme....That increasingly dangerous reputation of anything goes is scaring away more middle-class adult visitors, the kind of people who actually spend money, and attracting young people who only want to frolic in a drunken haze, traditionalists say. - "Merrymaking is Clashing with Tradition in Mardi Gras Tableaux" (The New York Times, February 23, 1998), by Rick Bragg
Big Chicken parade by Infrogmation @ flickr
Mardi Gras Cajun Jokes
You Might be a Cajun If...
...you start an angel food cake with a roux.
...watching the "wild kingdom" inspires you to write a cookbook.
...you think the head of the united nations is boudreaux/ boudreax-guillory.
...you think a lobster is a crawfish on steriods.
...you think ground hog day and boucherie day are the same holiday.
...you take a bite of 5-alarm texas chili and reach for the tabasco.
...fred's lounge in mamou means more to you than the grand ole opry.
...you pass up a trip abroad to go to the crawfish festival in breaux bridge.
...your children's favorite bedtime story begins "first you make a roux..."
...your description of a gourmet dinner includes the words "deep fat fried."
...your mama announces each morning, "well, I've got the rice cooking-what will we have for dinner?"
...you greet your long lost friend at the lafayette international airport with "iiiiieeeeeee!"
...you sit down to eat boiled crawfish and your host says "don't eat the dead ones" and you know what he means.
...you don't know the real names of your friends, only their nicknames.
...you gave up tabasco for Lent.
...you know the difference between zatarains, zeringue, and zydeco.
...your dog thinks the bed of your pickup is his kennel.
...any of your dessert recipes call for jalapenos.
...you consider Opelousas the capital of the state, and Lafayette the capital of the nation.
...you think the four seasons are: duck, rabbit, deer, squirrel.
Mardi Gras alien by Infrogmation @ flickr
You Know You Are From Louisiana If...
...When out of town, you stop and ask someone where there is a drive-thru daiquiri place, and they look at you like you have three heads.
...The crawdad mounds in your front yard have overtaken the grass.
...You greet people with "Howyamomma'an'em?" and hear back "Dey fine!"
...Every so often, you have waterfront property. (flooding)
...You learned to drive a boat before you could drive a car.
...You know the meaning of a "Delcambre Reeboks." (That would be a pair of all white fishing boots)
...You offer somebody a "coke" and then ask them what kind: Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, 7Up?
...You can name all of your 3rd cousins.
...You can plan your wedding around hunting season & LSU football.
...Your burial plot is six feet over rather than six feet under. (some areas of Louisiana are at sea level so they bury the dead in stone vaults like you see in New Orleans cemeteries)
...When you refer to a geographical location "way up North", you are referring to places like Shreveport, Little Rock or Memphis, "where it gets real cold"! (those cold places: Shreveport, Louisiana - Little Rock, Arkansas - Memphis, Tennessee)
...You're not afraid when someone wants to "ax you something." (ax = ask)
...You don't worry when you see ships riding higher in the river than the top of your house.
....The waitress at your local sandwich shop tells you a fried oyster po-boy "dressed" is healthier than a Caesar salad.
...You know the definition of "dressed." (mayo, pickles, mustard)
...The smell of a crawfish boil turns you on more than HBO.
...You don't realize until high school what a "county" is. (in Louisiana a county is called a parish)
...You can eat Popeye's, Haydel's and Zapp's for lunch and wash it down with Barq's and several Abitas, without losing it all on your stoop. (Popeye's: fried chicken, Haydel's: bakery in New Orleans famous for making Mardi Gras King Cakes, Zapp's: potato chips, Barq's: root beer, Abita: beer.)
...You have a ditch on at least one side of your property. (drainage or sewer ditch for rain water run off to avoid flooding)
...You prefer skiing on the bayou. (water skiing)
...You assume everyone has mosquito swarms in their backyard.
...You like your rice and politics dirty. (dirty rice has ground meat in it)
...You pronounce the largest city in the state as "Newawlins." (New Orleans)
...You know an old person that can "treat" you for warts. (traiteuse: French Native American shaman)
...You know those big roaches can fly, but you're able to sleep at night anyway.
...You can't think of anybody that can cook better than your momma.
...You know when it's appropriate to use "Tony Chachere's." (Cajun seasoning)
...When you're in Baton Rouge you know the difference between the old bridge & the new bridge. (over the Mississippi River)
...Your last name isn't pronounced the way it's spelled.
...You have spent a summer afternoon on the Lake Pontchartrain seawall catching blue crabs.
Saints Super Bowl Victory parade:
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