****I'm Back...and what better day than Fat Tuesday or Carnival, better known as Mardi Gras? Below is the 2009 Mardi Gras post, mostly because I've been snowed under both with massive change as well as tons of work - but really because I love that photo of the Purple Man Mask.... I really should be posting from The Big Easy..there is no fairness in life...Enjoy!********
*Originally posted February 2009
It's Carnival Time again! Mardi Gras actually started on Twelfth Night, January 6th, and runs full steam until Midnight on Fat Tuesday, this year February 24th.
I credit my fairly laid-back social views to a lifetime of more-than-a-few Mardi Gras seasons. You can't grow up watching transvestites and grown men dancing in feathered costumes without being affected on some level.
You also learn a certain amount of tolerance when your home is invaded by millions of people annually, usually for the last three or four days of Carnival (fortunately the visitors don't realize the parties actually string out for three to six weeks).
Mardi Gras is famous for its parades, there's always several going on somewhere in the city. For instance today, February 19, there are three. Tomorrow there are five. Parades are full of huge, colorful floats, the most incredible, complex, outrageous floats you can imagine. Each float (and sometimes the whole parade) is sponsored by a krewe. Krewe can loosely translate into "club", and several have been around since the 1800's.
My own favorite krewes:
Krewe of Rex: This krewe picked the famous Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green, besides thinking of the idea of collectible Mardi Gras doubloons. The very first doubloons were thrown out in 1960, which just happens to be the first year I was deemed old enough to go to a parade.
Mardi Gras Indians: Traditionally the focal point for New Orleans Black Mardi Gras, now front and center, and famous for their intricate beaded costumes worth thousands of dollars. The "Indians" name was chosen to show the black respect for the native Indians of Louisiana, who would help slaves escape during ante-bellum days. You can also see the Indians parade on the Sunday closest to St. Joseph's Day, March 19 (this year March 22nd), in an afternoon parade that starts around Orleans and Bayou St. John, and goes who-knows-where-from-there. Like any other Mardi Gras Indian parade, the exact route is not designated, and twists and turns through the city.
Krewe of Proteus: Totally themed on Egyptian mythology, dates back to 1882, and the second oldest Krewe
Krewe of Thoth: Named for the Eyptian god of Wisdom (he invented science, arts and letters). To me, letters means the written word, or books. You know I had to love them. Dates to 1947, before my time.
Krewe of Okeanos: Okeanos is the Greek god of oceans and valleys -very important when your city is perched on the edge of the Gulf.
Krewe of Cleopatra: Founded during my college years in 1972, the first all-female Krewe in the Westbank.
Krewe of Iris: The oldest and biggest all-female krewe in New Orleans proper, originated in 1917, and parading since 1959.
And Chewy's favorite:
Krewe of Barkus: the only krewe by and for canines of all types.
The krewe names alone conjure up mystical events and mythological gods: Adonis, Argus,Zeus, Isis, Hermes, Aquila, Jason, Morpheus, Muses, Chaos, Centurions, Nemesis, Rhea, Ancient Druids, Excalibur, King Arthur & Merlin, Pegasus, Caesar, Sparta, Shangri0La, Pygmalion, Gladiators, Ponchatrain,and so many more.
Traffic rolls to a stop in both the French Quarter and Uptown, as there is always a parade starting (or ending), and the floats line the sidestreets, waiting for their turn. Floats can be huge carrying hundreds (literally hundreds) of riders. In 1994, the Krewe of Orpheus set a record (at that time) with 700 riders on a single float.
The Krewe of Bacchus carries the various celebrity monarchs and is known for its elaborate floats (and its great souvenirs -thrown indiscriminately to the crowds who are shouting "THROW ME SOMETHING MISTER!")
Many people don't know that Mardi Gras was actually first celebrated in Mobile, Alabama -mostly because they were settled before New Orleans. Approximately 30 years later, New Orleans started in on its first Carnival, and proved to be much better than Mobile at partying, carrying on all night, producing the necessary strange and bizarre personages, and maintaining a live-and-let-live year-round spirit of total debachery.
Let The Good Times Roll!