Early Mardi Gras with Glossary / January 2016
| Society of Ste Anne marching society, rue Royal at Kerlerec, New Orleans / by Janis Turk|
Yours Truly in a Swamp,
|LEJ / Parc Sans Souci, Lafayette|
photo credit: Frank Parsley
Yours Truly in a Swamp
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|Janis Turk and Karissa Kary photo credit: Janis Turk|
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Short Carnival / Early Mardi Gras
a cultural exchange
by Leonard Earl Johnson
There will be many a Yankee trader awakening at home the week after Mardi Gras (very early this year on February 9) with moss-stuffed voodoo dolls sitting bewilderingly atop their desks.
by Leonard Earl Johnson
Carnival is like the Catholic Church.
The deeper you look the more there is to see.
|Carnival celebrant / NOLa|
This is done to keep Lent ever forty-suffering days long. To achieve this Carnival shrinks some years. This year is one of the shortest Carnivals ever. But not the shortest, that occurs on the years when Mardi Gras falls on February 3.
February 28, 2017;
February 13, 2018;
March 5, 2019;
February 25, 2020;
February 16, 2021;
March 1, 2022;
February 21, 2023;
February 13, 2024;
March 4, 2025;
February 17, 2026;
February 9, 2027.
"It moves," L. A. Norma says, "it's alive!"
Ball (tableau ball) ~ A masked party featuring entertainment performances of scenes in still-life representing a specific theme. Can be deadly dull. Can be uproariously funny.
Moveable tableaus on Carnival Day are the funniest. Who can forget the Westbank Big Hair Emergency Repair Krewe marching along fixing misshapened bouffants on parade routes of yore?
Boeuf Gras ~ The fatted bull or ox representing death to the fat, and the beginning of Lenten Abstinence. Said by journalist-emeritus and Mardi Gras overseers Arthur Hardy, and Errol Laborde to be the most photographed sight of Carnival.
|Boeuf Gras ~ Rex parade ~ Mardi Gras, NOLa|
Captain ~ Leader of each Mardi Gras organization.
Court ~ The king, queen, maids and dukes of each Mardi Gras organization. There is a hierarchy here culminating in Rex. However, no court or krewe is more important than the one you are in.
Rex ~ One of the "Big Four" ~ oldest four krewes of New Orleans Carnival ~ founded in 1872 ~ Rex Wikipedia.
Favor ~ This is a personalized souvenir, given by organization members to friends attending the ball.
Invitation ~ A non-transferable printed request for attendance at a Mardi Gras ball.
King Cake ~ This is an oval cake sugared in Mardi Gras tricolors (traditionally brioche, today
In New Orleans, the first Carnival parade each year is organized by a happily knit group of swells on Twelfth Night, January 6, King Cake Day (a.k.a. Epiphany). This krewe calls themselves the Phunny Phorty Phellows.
|Phunny Phorty Phellows Street Car Parade|
Krewe ~ a generic term for all Carnival organizations and clubs. Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology are sources for half the krewe names. Some clubs are named after neighborhoods, while others are named after historical figures or places. In Acadiana's Hub City of Lafayette, amid the large parades rolls one samba-swinging beauty named Rio.
Clubs are chartered by most cities as non-profit entities and are financed by dues, by sale of krewe-emblemed merchandise to members (who give them as favors) and by fund-raising projects. Mardi Gras krewes are sometimes involved in charity work. But not much.
Lundi Gras ~ French for Fat Monday (Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday). "Fat" is a broad term for prosperity and joy, the very things being done in Carnival-excess before Lent takes them away.
The Day before Mardi Gras from 1897 to 1917 was celebrated by arrival of Rex aboard a steamboat on the Mississippi River. In 1987, under the New Orleans Mayoralty of Sydney Barthelemy, a local
|Courtesy of Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club|
Each year since ~ aboard separate vessels and for the last two years Rex has come on the train ~ Zulu and Rex arrive at Spanish Plaza and greet each other there, at the foot of Poydras Street.
"One River Two Boats!" ~ L. A. Norma wrote at the time to the old Times-Picayune daily.
Comus and Rex still hold elaborate meeting-of-the-courts balls on Mardi Gras night. But only Rex parades. Henri Schindler, Carnival Artistic Designer makes a touching statement on the meaning of Mardi Gras in New Orleans old line artistic circles.
|Lee Circle seen from Confederate Museum|
In 1884, the first Queen of Comus was Mildred Lee, daughter of defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee, subject of the 1884 monument on Saint Charles Avenue at Lee Circle, by Alexander Doyle. Targeted in 2015 for removal by current Mayor Mitch Landrieu
Zulu ~ A black krewe formed some forty years after the Civil War, and the post-war
|click to read caption|
The obelisk commemorates the bloody battle of 14 September 1874. It was a terrorist plot that removed the elected governor, William Pitt Kellogg. The inscription on the monument refers to the National Elections two years later ~ 1876 ~ as the moment that ended failed Reconstruction, and united White Supremacy with Jim Crow Law.
"De facto wage-slavery!"our pedicab driver says.
"At best," Norma chortled from inside a plume of cigarette smoke.
Some think the insurrection should be sharply remembered. Two out-of-town deconstruction companies hired to remove the memorials have sent lawyer-letters to The City asking out of their contracts because of death threats.
For three days, in 1874, Governor Kellogg and his cronies (krewe?) took refuge in the newly built U. S. Custom House and Post Office, a handsome Union thumbprint still standing across from Brooks Brothers, on Canal and North Peters Streets.
|Grand Marble Hall, U. S. Custom House, NOLa|
Their objective was regaining Big Swamp City for the seat of a new Confederacy. Masterminds even sent a delegation to Washington, D. C. to plead their case before President Ulysses S. Grant.
Having just fought the Civil War to defeat such a confederacy,
Grant reasoned with the boys from Louisiana,
he must now say,
He reinstated Governor Kellogg.
One wonders if Grant might have hanged them for treason?
Or if their meeting was civil, social,
and took place at the Willard Hotel?
If they drank whiskey with Grant?
If anyone visited the famous pleasure houses of our victorious capitol?
Sherman was from Ohio, and a recent graduate of West Point.
He was not yet a Union general, but he was hired as president of the newly founded
William Tecumseh Sherman!
"Guess that's why Jindal's Repugs wanted L. S . U. starved to death,"
Norma said through a cloud of smoke.
"Sherman burned Atlanta," our cabbie said,
"Bobby Jindal burned Baton Rouge."
|Courtesy of Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club|
"You can imagine the indignity of a float full of white-faced blacks coming up behind your Fatted Ox throwing coconuts!"
Norma tells this to visitors as she blows Camel Cigarette smoke in their faces ~ this time of year usually laced with Marijuana.
This Saga is a perfect example of a kind of New Orleans social studies practiced by those poorer souls who come to "watch" Carnival.
We who know better know Carnival as a participatory thing.
Take another turn around the dancefloor, Louisiana, them smart folks are watching us again.
|Celebrant, NOLa / Carlos Detres|
Hangover ~ This one you may already know. Most appropriate for Ash Wednesday.
|Courir de Mardi Gras|
Among these items is a live chicken or two. A grand drunken chase ensues. Hardly anyone is injured if you do not count the chicken.
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- Courir de Mardi Gras
- FolkStreams » Dance for a Chicken
- www.folkstreams.net/film,168, local filmmaker Pat Mire gives an insiders look at
- the colorful, rural Cajun Mardi Gras. About one hour long.