Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Shrove Tuesday Mardi Gras

Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday the beginning of Lent. In my part of the woods, today is Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday") and the people go wild.

I grew up with Shrove Tuesday which meant eating pancakes with the Episcopalians at St. Martin's. Pancakes are the traditional food of the day as all the milk and eggs are used before Ash Wednesday when certain foods are avoided as an act of self-denial for Lent.

I was an adult before I experienced Mardi Gras in New Orleans which is very different from a pancake supper in a small parish hall.

The New Orleans celebration blew away my East Coast ideas about partying in the streets. Like we buttoned up Protestants ever partied in the streets.......

The day began with going to a church member's house early for breakfast and milk punch. The milk punch was mostly bourbon, the breakfast was mostly King Cake. I seldom drink so the combination of sugar and alcohol meant I was ready for a nap by 8 am. The church folks would load up in cars caravan style and head down to St. Charles' Avenue to another member's home. After parking the cars (difficult when thousands of people are converging on a small area some with RV's and all loaded with ladders and ice chests) we'd settle in on the front porch to chat and warm up for the parades. By now it's about 10 am. The time to chat and drink rolled over us as did watching families set up step ladders for children to climb to grab the beads.

Beads? Oh yeah. East Coast parades are for standing and watching. Mardi Gras parades send you home with bags of plastic beads and trinkets (doubloons, aluminum coins made for the occasion, small plastic junk and stuffed animals). If a kid is high up on a ladder, float riders can get the beads to them more easily.

Police are closing off the streets to traffic and people begin to walk in the streets from house to house. It's getting wild but only a warm-up.

The visiting gets more intense. After all, we are Southerners and we know each other. Or we know a stranger's home town or fifth grade teacher or one of their mamma's cousins. We visit, hug and drink more.
Bathrooms become an issue. The families who are "with" the homes on St. Charles' Ave. are grateful for the access to bathrooms. The City sets up port-a-potties but only the desperate use these.

It's time to eat again. The most wonderful junk food on the planet appears on Arthur Court or sterling silver trays. Everything from dips and spreads to shrimp to gumbo to jambalya to hamburgers and hot dogs.
Food and drink, food and drink; it's the New Orleans mantra.

(Time for more coffee. More later......)


Anonymous said...

I have vivid memories of my New Orleans aunt taking us to the French Quarter for parades, being in costume (generally pirates, an easy one-AR AR ), and always standing on the brick fence at the nunnery, where, according to my aunt, they always throw the good beads.

I have equally vivid memories of my wife, who, like you, came from the Northern provinces, had never experienced carnival, and had the whole day that happy, crinkly faced smile of a child.

I know Mardi Gras is the epitomy of partying to many, but, to me, it was always a family, being together and having fun.

St. Andouille de Gumbo

the reverend mommy said...

Oooo... Sound like fun! I was up at 5:00 to help make pancakes and I was ready to nap by 8:00 as well... Your day sound like more fun!