What is Mardi Gras?

These last couple of months have been so crazy from leading up to Christmas, on to New Years, then finally leading to Mardi Gras.  Mardi Gras season has very much been a learning experience for me, because before I came here all I really knew about Mardi Gras was a bunch of drunk college students going to New Orleans and begging for beads. Well, it turns out once again I’m mostly wrong. Mardi Gras is a religious holiday that is celebrated after Epiphany Sunday through Ash Wednesday.

This season is celebrated around feasting on rich and fatty foods before the Lenten season. I was also introduced to King Cake. It is traditionally flavored like a cinnamon roll with a white glaze and colored sprinkles on top, but sometimes it can be filled with lots of different flavors like cream cheese, blueberry, lemon, chocolate and so many others.  You’ll see in the picture below that there is a small baby.  This is a representation of Baby Jesus, since you’re not supposed to eat King Cake until Epiphany, when Jesus still would have been an infant.  If you find the baby in the cake, it then becomes your responsibility to buy the next King Cake.

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So, besides the foods, Mardi Gras is also lavish in how people decorate floats, costumes, and even their houses or stores. Everywhere you look you see vibrant greens, golds, and purples. The colors were chosen with meaning by Rex, the King of Carnival, in 1892. Green is for faith, purple for justice, and gold for power. The Parades are a big deal here too.  There are dozens of parades spread out over about two weeks. All the floats and riders are impressively dressed or decorated. They also throw a variety of gifts, including beads, snacks, stuffed animals, footballs, light up toys, decorated coconuts, shoes, and purses.

Another very important part of this time of year is community joy.  It’s a big part of what this time is about: the joy of spending time with friends, family, and neighbors. I also love how friendly everyone is to each other: making friends with the strangers standing next to you at parades, I have started dance parties in the streets, played football/ Frisbee with kids in the street, and taught little girls how to make jump rope out of broken beads.

I really enjoyed how amazing Mardi Gras season was, and am super grateful to experience it. It was heartwarming to see a community that is divided on a lot of issues and problems come together to celebrate and party as one.

 

 

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