Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Throw Me Something, Lady!


It's Carnival Time!

January 6th marks Epiphany, and the official start of the carnival season. Carnival lasts until Ash Wednesday, culminating in the huge party that is Mardi Gras.



Despite what you've seen on television, Mardi Gras and the weeks proceeding it are truly a time for family fun. Granted, I would not take my child to Bourbon Street (but I've been on Mardi Gras! It was fun!), but outside of that small area in the French Quarter, there is much to do.



It all begins with the appearance of King Cake everywhere you go. King Cake is a coffee cake (you can get it in the plain cinnamon variety or with various fillings. Cream cheese is my favorite) covered with frosting and colored sugar (purple, green and gold, the official Mardi Gras colors). Hidden within the cake is a tiny plastic baby. The cake is named after the kings who came searching for the baby Jesus, and so finding the baby is designed to remind us that we, too, should be seeking Jesus. Tradition also states that the person who finds the baby has to supply the next king cake.







The parades start immediately. As Mardi Gras grows closer the parades grow more frequent. With a short season, like this year (Mardi Gras is Feb 5th) the parade schedule is pretty packed from the get go. There are the huge parades in the city, pretty good sized ones in the suburbs, boat parades and truck parades, lawnmower parades and parades of kids pulling their wagons through the neighborhood. Everyone loves a parade, yes?




The floats are fairly interesting, but what sets parades here in New Orleans apart from anywhere else that I know of is the amount of STUFF that they throw. We moved here just before Mardi Gras, 2005. We took MQ to her first parade. We were warned that we would get a lot of stuff with a cute little blond girl on her daddy's shoulders. We schooled her in yelling out "Throw me something, Mister!" We took along a bag for our goodies. We walked away from the parade with three bags that weighed more than she did, plus the bottom basket of the stroller loaded. Beads, stuffed animals, moon pies and more were hurled at us from the passing parade. (It gets really dangerous at the St. Patrick's Day parades, when they hurl very large cabbages at your head.)



Going to the parades is an event. Often we gather with friends for a party before the parade, then walk to the parade route. We take coolers and food. We deck out in our Mardi Gras finery. Down in the city many families wear costumes.

Every home in the New Orleans area, I imagine, has an attic full of beads and other parade "throws." We have 2 large Rubbermaid containers full of them. MQ likes to take them out and sort them by color. We play parade where she stands on the bed and throws them to me. She lays on the ground and I cover her up them. They are well used beads. We keep one of the bins in the guest room and tell our guests to take however many they want. When we tell them this they usually demur, until they see the huge bin, and we explain that that's a mere half of what we have in the house. Then they fill up their suitcase.



The day before Mardi Gras, Lundi Gras, is a great time to head with your family into the French Quarter. There is free music on the riverfront, street performers, and of course, you have to stop for a beignet.


When I mentioned on Sunday that we decorate for Mardi Gras Beck wanted some pictures. What you have to understand is that nearly EVERYONE down here decorates for Mardi Gras. Not only can you buy stuff in nearly every store, but you get things thrown to you at parades. So... here, a glimpse of the decorations in my house:



The May Queen's playroom is always decorated for Mardi Gras. We bought this poster our first year here, and then bought the cheap feather masks at a souvenir shop in the quarter - 3 for $5. The feather mask and boa were caught at a parade.





Any home with a flagpole out front flies a Mardi Gras flag. I bought this on sale, and fancied it up with beads caught at parades. This Mardi Gras wreath is new this year. May I just say that I love my glue gun? The sign at the top of this post, which hangs just inside my front door, I caught off of a balcony on Bourbon Street last Mardi Gras. It was attached to some beads, and I wore it around all night. And no, I did not flash anything to get it. You do not need to lift your shirt to get beads. Breast showing is for tourists. Stupid tourists. You do see a fair amount of breasts being shown on Bourbon Street, and not just on Mardi Gras.





The Mardi Gras tree. Crazy, I know. Lots of people with fake trees leave them up and decorate them for Mardi Gras. This small tree was our only tree during the toddler years, and now it lives in the playroom during Christmas. But after Christmas the traditional ornaments come off, and it gets decorated with beads and feathers. I use this tree to display the beads we've caught that have medallions from the various Krewes (each parade is hosted by a Krewe, and they have their own special beads they toss) and a few other cool ones we've caught along the way.













Our living room. Again, all the beads were caught at parades. And the bear. He is one of MANY.



After Katrina many people questioned whether New Orleans should even have Mardi Gras. So many people were gone. So many more were suffering. Homeless. But Mardi Gras is a part of this city, just like the music and the food. Mardi Gras restored the strength of so many who were tired and burnt out. Mardi Gras gave them the chance to forget, for just a little while, that they were living in Fema trailers. They ate and danced and costumed and hollered for beads. And then they went back to work (if you are new to this blog, may I recommend that you read my post I Know What It Means to Love New Orleans. It's my love letter to the city, and there are even more Mardi Gras and other N.O. pictures there)


I would invite you all to come and crash on my couch for Mardi Gras, but as we don't have any guests this year we are taking advantage of the week off of school to go to Disney. Yes, the May Queen is thrilled.

However, in the spirit of Mardi Gras I think I hear the masses yelling "Throw Me Something, Lady," and so I will. Post a comment and include the name of an official New Orleans (or NO area) Mardi Gras Krewe (no repeats, please). On Friday I will randomly select 3 people who gave me a new Krewe to receive a small box of authentic Mardi Gras beads and other various throws, all caught at parades, as well as a CD of New Orleans music, mixed for you by me, with love. So you can throw your own Mardi Gras parade or party. I may even throw in some recipes for New Orleans food. Mmmm.....


p.s. I'll be taking the day off tomorrow for Day To Read. If I can keep away from the computer, that is. See you on Friday.

43 comments:

flutter said...

Being from LA, I am so on board with decorating for Mardi Gras! I love this!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Great post! And I'll play - Thoth - the Krewe that hosted the parade that my son and I saw in 2005. And being that he was little and cute and there were almost no kids in the area, like May Queen we were loaded with beads!

I didn't know about folks decorating their homes, though. I wish we'd been there longer - we were there for just a couple of days prior to a cruise. I'd still like to go down there and probably will some day.

Thanks for this post!

Mary Beth said...

We have some Mardi Gras masks of hammered metal and feathers that my parents brought back. I was teaching at the time and they loaded up their bags to bring as many beads back for my kindergarten kids as possible! They loved it:) I nominate The Ducks of Dixieland (not sure if they're for real or not but I like the sound of their name).

Ambassador said...

We had our King Cake party on Sunday - can't believe it's here already and we only have less than 4 weeks now to get our costumes ready!

I won't play 'cause that would be unfair - and I probably have as many or more beads than you. I live in the Marigny, next door to where the Krewe of St. Ann meets up to head out on their walking parade. I love my neighborhood - if you are down here before Disney, let me know and we can say hey!! Happy Carnival!

soccer mom in denial said...

This is AWESOME!!!!!!! We get four King Cakes shipped up here for each classroom and my office.

I do know what it means to miss and love New Orleans.

And thanks so much for reading tomorrow!

amanda said...

How fun. I hope to make it down there for Mardi Gras at somepoint before I die.

Mad Hatter said...

Oh, what a fantastic post. It makes me want to book a flight and come right down. I am NOT going to play the game though because I DO NOT need more stuff. In my bedroom purge of last November, I actually tossed a set of Mardi Gras beads that a work colleague had given me. They were not all shiny and cool like yours, though.

Chrissy said...

You just brought back so many fond memories of when I was a kid. I lived up in West Monroe, and we had little parades there, but my cousins lived in St. Amant so we would come see them and go to some of the parades. I can't remember the name of a Krewe even though I had 20 million little yellow cups with their name on it.

Chrissy said...

LOVE your decorations, by the way.

Sober Briquette said...

I never imagined any of this, although where my parents winter in FL, Carnival is big, too. I'm totally in on the game - I pick Krewe of Orpheus. (I'd love the CD!)

Sober Briquette said...

Was I supposed to say it?

THROW ME SOMETHING, LADY!

XO

Victoria said...

Ah, little MQ is so cute! I also didn't know people decorated their homes - so pretty! My company does business with a vendor in NO and every year they send us a King Cake. Yummy.

I've been to NO about 8 times. And I've always seen naked bodies (not mine, of course). And *never* during Mardi Gras! LOL!

I wish they'd send Cafe du Monde though. =)

Kyla said...

I don't know anything about Krewes, but I know lots about beignets. Mmmmm. Beignets at Cafe Du Monde. Yum.

Beck said...

A Krewe? What? But oh my gosh, how much fun are you guys having? I love everything about this post.

Candygirlflies said...

This looks AWESOME... Maybe I'll just leave my tree up and do Mardi Gras here, too!!

Enjoy Disney... and hey, will you be around for the big Par-Tay next year?? 'Cause this post made me want to come and visit FOR SURE...

xo CGF

Julie Pippert said...

What a fun post and great info too!

Since most of us don't head into town (in this case I mean Galveston) for all the festivities there, we often have our own little town parade and party for kids and families, including, of course, king cake.

MamaGeek said...

This was so much fun to read. It looks like one big, fun part-ay! And the May Queen is adorable as always I might add.

Karen said...

This was so great to see! And I don't think I saw that post from August before and it was really so moving. Enjoy carnival.

slouching mom said...

wow. thanks for teaching me about all of this. i had no idea!

jen said...

dude. i LOVE this. i want to go to parades and wear masks with you guys.

Alpha DogMa said...

Take my word for it: I'm flasing my tits at the computer screen. Did I earn some beads?

(Great post.)

creative-type dad said...

Right now - I'm considering decorating my house.

And I'm virtually throwing beads at alpha dogma...

Family Adventure said...

PM, I had no idea that you lived in New Orleans...but I certainly won't forget it now. What a great post. I'd love to experience Mardi Gras for myself one day. For now, I'll just imagine myself there, thanks to your vivid descriptions and lovely pictures.

Heidi

Badness Jones said...

New Orleans for Mardi Gras is on my dream list of vacations.....thanks for moving it up a couple spots!

Christine said...

i pick krewe okeanos founded in 1949.

and this was THE coolest post. i learned so much. i've always wanted to make (or at least eat!) a king cake.

Running on empty

Christine said...

oh yeah--"throw me something!!"
Running on empty

susiej.com said...

Painted Maypole, I love this?! You are the first person that I know up close who celebrates Mardi Gras, and I had no idea what this entailed.

I love that you switch out the tree -- and that the kids are off school.
I love the rich purples -- what a great tradition, and thank you for sharing.

Don Mills Diva said...

Oh Ya - Throw me something!

This is so cool. I have been to New Orleans but I didn't know all of this history. I'm a little jealous of you - it sounds like such fun.

Don Mills Diva said...

Oh Ya - Throw me something!

This is so cool. I have been to New Orleans but I didn't know all of this history. I'm a little jealous of you - it sounds like such fun.

Kathryn said...

Those pics of MQ are just too precious. I love the one of her in her little lawn chair all decked out. So cute!
I must have little kids because all I could think of with the King Cakes is, "that sounds like a choking hazard". hehe
Disney! Weehooooo!!!
Have fun reading!

another good thing said...

Now that was an education I truly needed. I was one of those folks who thought Mardi Gras was all about drunk kids puking in the street and girls showing their tits.
Now I can add your fair city back to the must visit list.
Off to read...

Rima said...

That sounds like so much fun!! If I win, will you send me some King Cake? I cheated and Googled a bunch of Krewes, and my favorite has got to be "Elvis."

wheelsonthebus said...

My roommate in grad school (and still one of my closest friends) is from Tibedeux (excuse my spelling), and I LOVED when she decorated for Mardi Gras. The party was nice, too!

Emily

BipolarLawyerCook said...

We made a french Galette du Rois for Epiphany-- almond paste encased in puff pastry, and I got the bean! Of course, my Dad always finagles that... I always host Easter dinner, too.

Thanks for the tutorial-- I learned some new things!

Chaotic Joy said...

Hey MP! Thanks for sharing New Orleans Mardi Gras Culture. I didn't know any of this!

nomotherearth said...

That sounds like so much fun! Thanks for showing us what it's really like at Mardi Gras..Oh, and thanks for making me hungry for King Cake too...thanks a lot.

Jen M. said...

You should work for the tourism bureau!

And I love that wreath!!! And the door...and the mantel....

Mary G said...

I don't need the beads; my face is green with envy. We were at one NO Mardi Gras and I loved every minute of it.
Cheer on a Krewe for me!

niobe said...

What fun! I wish we all were there.

the dragonfly said...

One of these years we will be there for Mardi Gras!!! I'll bet the Little Mister will love it...

thirtysomething said...

Lady, this sounds like such fun ~ Mardi Gras. I admit that I don't know much about it and have never been. A month-long celebration? Week off of school? I need to move to N.O.
But your pictures told the story beautifully. And just look at adorable MQ with her legs all crossed in the chair! It all looks brilliant and fun. Thank you for sharing these pics!

ewe are here said...

I love the fact that not only do you celebrate mardi Gras, but you decorate for the holiday as well. Fantastic!

girlymom said...

This is a great idea, cool pics!