Laissez le bon Temps Rouler
February 21, 2012
Mardi Gras will be celebrated on Feb 21st this year. In New Orleans, where the Mardi Gras Carnival is most celebrated, the streets will fill with floats, drinks, and merriment. The people will don the gold, green, and purple of the tradition and carry on well into the night and next day. "Rex" or the "King of Mardi Gras Carnival" will be most likely glittered more than any of the other "royalty".
I love the idea of this colorful feast and festival because it has so many different traditions involved. The colors (green, gold, and purple), for example, are supposed to represent justice, faith, and power. "Rex" was adopted as a symbol in 1872, inspired by the visit of the Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff while the south was still struggling to recover from the effects of the Civil War.
Mardi Gras literally translates in French to "Fat Tuesday," merriment to take place before the season of Lent. In the late 1700s, pre-Lenten balls and fetes were held in New Orleans. Under French rule, masked balls flourished but were later banned by the Spanish governors. The prohibition continued when New Orleans became an American city in 1803, but by 1823, the Creole people appealed to an American Governor and the Balls we permitted again. Two years later, masks were once again allowed on the street.
One of the most popular foods during this festival is the king cake, a delicious sweet that conceals a tiny plastic baby or king-like figure. The rule is whoever gets the piece of cake with the souvenir inside must buy or make the next King cake. Contemporary king cakes are often filled with cream cheese and fruit fillings, such as apple or strawberry, and other fillings. They are made of a braided Danish pastry.
Promptly at the stroke of midnight at the end of Fat Tuesday, a mounted squad of New Orleans police officers clear upper Bourbon Street. The bulk of out-of-town revelers congregate, announcing that Mardi Gras is over, as it is the start of Lent, commencing with Ash Wednesday. Since Hurricane Katrina, the attendance dwindled. It has come back in full force and breathes new life into the City of New Orleans every year.